Doctors and patients alike are often uncomfortable talking about sexual health and
According to the CDC, about 19 million Americans each year are affected by sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Young people, ages 15-24, are disproportionately affected; they account for 50 percent of all new sexually transmitted infections despite representing just 25 percent of the total sexually active population.
The problem is particularly acute in Maryland, which has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in the country. Maryland ranks 9th highest among the 50 states in cumulative reported
Conservative estimates from this CDC show that the lifetime cost of treating eight of the most common STIs contracted in one year is $15.6 billion. Some STIs, like
These costs are almost entirely avoidable, but we also are operating in a culture where talking frankly about sex and its risks is not encouraged enough. The debates over sex education and the distribution of condoms in schools are well known, but a less obvious culprit in the spread of sexually transmitted infections is the failing of the health care system. According to a report from the National Cancer Institute, major hurdles to
According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2010 only 30 percent of American girls had received all three CDC-recommended doses of the HPV vaccines. Comparatively, in Canada, 50 percent to 85 percent of girls were vaccinated, and in the United Kingdom and Australia well over 70 percent of girls received the vaccination. These countries make efforts to provide access and affordable coverage but do not require the vaccine. The U.S. should follow suit and actively work to curb health care costs with prevantative services. In 2007, Maryland established a task force to make recommendations for a state plan for the
A positive development in the effort to stop the spread of STIs came in November, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-backed panel of scientists and medical professionals, made a new recommendation that every American between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for HIV. Because the
The idea that people would be tested for HIV just as routinely as they are screened for
"Talking about [STIs and risk] at all in the ACA is big because it's often not in the conversation," said Barbara Conrad, chief of the Center for STI Prevention at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "People don't talk about things before they become real problems."
The onus to change that will be on both doctors and patients, Ms. Conrad said. Patients may be too shy to raise the issue on their own, and doctors, pressured by the time constraints of medical visits, may not bring it up either.
We need to do better. For many, talking openly about sex, even with a doctor, may seem like a taboo. But that taboo hurts our economy and public health.