In the US state of Virginia, the rate of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), namely chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis (primary and secondary), is rising every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state ranked 34th in the primary/secondary syphilis rates among the fifty US states, 29th in gonorrhea infections and 30th in the rates of chlamydia in 2015.
Around twenty million new STDs infections are reported in the USA every year. This makes it all the more important to consider making STD testing/screening a compulsory part of your routine health checkup. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men who have sex with men, women of childbearing age, people between age 15-24 and 25-34, and those having multiple partners must make sure to get tested for STDs every 3 to 6 months. Moreover, whoever is sexually active and prefers to have unprotected sex has a greater responsibility to get screened.
It is worth noting that most STDs tend to be asymptomatic and show little to no symptoms. The only way to identify that you are infected with an STD is through testing. The good news is that most common STDs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, are treatable. The key is to detect the virus in its initial stages. Always follow responsible and safe sex practices and make STD testing a priority. Untreated STDs can cause chronic health conditions such as infertility, miscarriages, colon cancer and may also progress into HIV.
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Virginia state’s primary/secondary syphilis rate was 2.6 cases/100,000 people in 2011 that increased to 4 cases/100,000 people in 2015. Regarding gonorrhea, the state’s case rate was over 97 cases per 100,000 people. There were nine cases of congenital syphilis reported between 2011 and 2015. chlamydia infections in 2015 were significantly high, with over 420 people per 100,000 population getting diagnosed. Women reported at least two times higher rates of chlamydia infections compared to men, with 563.9 cases and 279.8 cases per 100,000 population, respectively.
Preliminary data released by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) revealed shocking new developments. In 2018, the state observed a 22% rise in chlamydia diagnoses. In 2013 the state reported 33,825 cases, which increased to 41,377 in 2018. On the other hand, syphilis cases rose by 52%, from 327 in 2013 to 498 in 2018. However, the most disturbing trend was noticed in the rate of gonorrhea since there was a staggering 71% rise in the number of gonorrheal infections reported in Virginia, from 7,100 cases in 2013 to 12,141 in 2018.
In Virginia, Hampton Roads topped the list of highest STDs rates in all US metropolitan areas, as per 2010 study findings from the CDC. The region ranked 2nd highest in chlamydia infections, third highest in gonorrhea, and Eastern Virginia reported the state’s highest number of people living with HIV. In 2019, the state reported 566 chlamydia cases, 162 gonorrhea cases per 100,000 population and Hampton Roads again reported the highest infection rate for being a transient area. This area has twice the number of cases reported elsewhere in the state, with around 932 chlamydia and 315 gonorrhea infections reported per 100,000 people in 2019.
Between 2005 and 2009, African-Americans accounted for 76% of gonorrhea cases, 63% of syphilis and 55% of chlamydia diagnoses, stated Virginia Health Department. Norfolk had 9% of the state’s chlamydia diagnoses between 2005 and 2009, whereas Newport News and Virginia Beach recorded 7% of all chlamydial infections. Norfolk reported 11% of all gonorrhea infections in 2009, and Richmond had 12% of Virginia’s syphilis diagnoses during 2005 and 2009.
According to the statistics shared by the VDH, the three most impacted age groups regarding STDs prevalence was 20-24,25-29, and 15-19. Regarding chlamydia, the highest rates were reported amongst people aged 20-24 with 18,357 cases in 2019, followed by 15-19-year-olds with 12,231 cases, and 25-29-year-old individuals had the third-highest infection rate with 8,848 cases.
Regarding gonorrhea, a similar trend was observed since 20-24-year-olds accounted for over 4,200 gonorrheal cases, followed by 25-29-year-old individuals with 3,049 cases, and 15-19-year-olds recorded 2,262 cases.
In syphilis, the most affected group according to VDH was the 25-29-year-old individuals who accounted for 295 cases, followed by the 20-24 age group, which reported 251 cases, and 30-34 reported the third highest infection rate with 241 cases in 2019.
In all three STDs, the non-Hispanic black population accounted for the highest rate of disease. Black reported 761 syphilis, 19,097 chlamydia, and 8,408 gonorrhea cases in 2019. The white population was the next most impacted race in Virginia as they accounted for 2,551 gonorrhea diagnoses, 9,813 chlamydia, and 329 syphilis cases in the state in 2019.
Virginia Department of Health’s STD Prevention and Surveillance program director Diana Prat stated that the state had introduced several STI (sexually transmitted infection) initiatives to encourage people to get tested. That’s why the state has recorded a higher number of cases in recent years. More cases of STDs are reported to the department now than before. The Alexandria Health Department, for instance, launched the Getting to Zero campaign after receiving a $540,000 grant from the state health department. The campaign’s slogan was “Zero Infections, Zero HIV Deaths, Zero Stigma,” and the purpose of launching it was to promote HIV testing across Alexandria.
Furthermore, in 2018, the Virginia Department of Health mailed around 16,000 packets to private health care facilities to help them understand how to communicate with STD-infected patients, STD screening requirements and other resources on the topic.
DoingItRVA is an STD-related campaign launched by the Richmond City Health District in Richmond, Virginia. IT focuses on engaging sexually active youth since the number of syphilis cases is the highest in this area. Local health groups are engaged to organize STD and STI testing events at high schools and colleges to offer sexual health education and dismantle the stigma associated with STDs.
Most people experience feelings of hesitation when going to get tested for STD, despite knowing they might have contracted one. EasySTD was created to change that.
Visit your nearest lab or clinic, order your home testing kit online, and follow the given instructions from an STD testing provider.
After ordering your STD test, visit the testing center to get tested or take a self sample including urine, cotton swab, or finger prick with the home testing kit and mail it back.
Receive the lab-certified results of your STD test from your test provider via mail or phone within 2 to 3 days. If the test comes positive, consult your doctor immediately.