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Let’s Talk About Common STDs Affecting Minnesotans

Published in Women's Services, Sexual Medicine, Men's Health, For the Health of It Author: Tracy Roehl,APRN,CNP

Several states across the country have been battling syphilis outbreaks, including areas in Minnesota. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that spreads from person to person using vaginal, anal or oral intercourse.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the Duluth area is experiencing an outbreak including cases of congenital syphilis where the mother passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy.

Typically with syphilis, an infected person will first notice sores around the genitals. If it goes untreated for an extended period, it can get progressively worse and even lead to death.

Syphilis and other STDs are most common among teenagers and young adults who have multiple sexual partners and don’t use condoms consistently.

While Central Minnesota isn’t experiencing an outbreak of syphilis, it’s very important to know how STDs spread so you can protect yourself. Not all STDs are curable.

Types of STDs

It’s important to note that some of the STDs mentioned above also can be contracted by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing other bodily fluids such as blood.

How to stop the spread of STDs

  • Get an STD screening before a new sexual relationship
  • Use condoms
  • Remain in monogamous relationships

The most common STD I treat in the clinic is chlamydia. It spreads quickly because there are little to no symptoms in the beginning stages of this disease. Infected people may not know they have it. However, left untreated it can wreak havoc on a woman’s reproductive system. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all women have an annual chlamydia screening once they become sexually active regardless of their concern for exposure.

What if I suspect I have an STD?

  • Schedule an appointment for an STD screening at a clinic
  • Abstain from intercourse until you’ve been evaluated and treated

Treatment for STDs

Many STDs can be treated with antibiotics. This includes chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas and syphilis. Antibiotics do not clear up herpes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. These STDs may require intermittent treatments based on symptoms.

CentraCare offers expedited partner therapy for those patients with positive chlamydia or gonorrhea results. Approved in 2008 by the Minnesota State Legislature, expedited partner therapy allows health care providers with prescribing privileges to prescribe medications to treat chlamydia and gonorrhea for partners of patients who test positive without their partner needing to be seen in person.

Some people may abstain from seeking treatment because they feel awkward about the subject or fear someone like a parent may find out. Don’t let the stigma of STDs stop you from getting the help you need. STDs are common and over half of the people in the U.S. will have an STD at some point in their lifetime. If you are concerned that you have an STD, talk honestly with your primary care provider or gynecologist — they’re there to help you and can recommend which tests, treatments and vaccines might be right for you.