Press release from North Carolina Health and Human Services:
State health officials are encouraging North Carolinians to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as a part of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Awareness Month, observed in April. Preliminary data for the state indicates increases in HIV and congenital syphilis cases in 2016, while new syphilis cases remained steady.
According to the preliminary data:
An estimated 36,800 people live with HIV in North Carolina, with approximately 3,400 unaware of their infection.
Congenital syphilis, a preventable type of syphilis passed from the mother to a child during pregnancy, has increased by 63 percent from 2015. OB-GYNs and hospitals are encouraged to review the North Carolina syphilis testing guidelines and test all pregnant women for syphilis at every trimester.
The number of people newly diagnosed with syphilis was similar in 2015 and 2016, offering hope that there might be an end to a trend of increasing diagnoses that started in 2013.
Young women between 15 and 24 years old have the highest number of reported chlamydia cases. Untreated chlamydia can lead to severe health outcomes, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Sexually active teens and young adults should be screened at least annually for chlamydia.
“Sexually transmitted diseases can affect anyone, so it’s important to know how to protect yourself,” said Jacquelyn Clymore, HIV/STD/Hepatitis Director in the Communicable Disease Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health. “We encourage individuals to have an open dialogue with their health care provider about getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.”
N.C. DHHS has been working with local health departments and community organizations on STD prevention, testing and linking the public to care. These efforts have included sponsored provider trainings and increased syphilis testing and awareness campaigns. Local health departments and community-based organizations offer free and confidential STD and HIV testing.
Individuals can take measures to protect themselves and their partner against HIV and STDs by:Using condoms consistently and correctly
Limiting or eliminating drug and alcohol use before and during sex
Talking honestly and openly with their health care provider and asking whether they should be tested for STDs and HIV
Talking to their health care provider to find out if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that significantly lowers the chances of contracting HIV if taken daily, is a good option for them
More information about HIV and STDs can be found by visiting: publichealth.nc.gov.