April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017, the number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis hit an all-time high of about 2.3 million cases. In McHenry County from 2013 to 2017, the number of new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increased 32.5%, 201.1% and 160.8%, respectively.
Although STDs affect individuals of all ages, they take a particularly heavy toll on young people ages 15 to 24. This age group makes up about 25% of the sexually active population, but it accounts for half of the 20 million new STDs that occur in the U.S. each year.
Know your status by talking to your health care provider and your partner about your sexual history and any changes you might notice. Use condoms for protection. If you are sexually active, get tested. Testing is very important, even if you have no symptoms or only one partner. Most people do not have any symptoms when they have an STD.
The McHenry County Department of Health provides confidential STD clinics at its Woodstock and Crystal Lake locations by appointment. Confidential testing is provided to anyone age 12 and older at no cost or for a sliding scale fee, depending on an individual’s qualifications and the type of testing completed. Treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is provided at no fee for people who test positive and their partners. Call 815-334-4500 to make an appointment or to speak with a public health nurse. For information, visit cdc.gov or mcdh.info.
• Erica Hunter is a public health nurse in the communicable disease program at the McHenry County Department of Health.