Sexually transmitted infections may have a smaller stigma than they once did, but they’re still a diagnosis no one wants to hear—let alone talk about. Ironically, the slow pace at which society is de-stigmatizing STIs is no match for the rapid pace at which they’re being transmitted. According to new research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the combined number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reached a record high last year. Even sadder, those three STIs are all totally preventable.
The CDC reports that in spite of a drop in the number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in previous years, all three spiked again in 2015, for a total record high of 1,945,746 cases (chlamydia being by far the most common, accounting for more than 1.5 million of those transmissions). The best, simplest way to prevent them? Use a condom. Equally important: getting regular screenings at your annual pelvic exam—which you should definitely still be getting, BTW—so that you can address and treat infections, which don’t always have obvious symptoms. Read more important facts and myths about STIs here.
You’d think educating people about STI prevention and protection would go a long way toward slowing transmission rates, but our culture’s hesitancy to talk about STIs openly definitely isn’t helping anything. The CDC seems to agree, saying in its press release that community leaders need to promote STI prevention education, healthcare providers need to talk to patients about testing, and parents need to better educate their kids about sexual health. By acknowledging that so many people face these sexual health issues, we can cut down on the shame associated with them, and maybe get a dialogue going that will help more people understand more about STIs—including how to prevent them.