April is the official Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Awareness Month in the United States, but with Valentine’s Day approaching and some exciting new developments at ILDP surrounding sexual health, we wanted to take a minute to discuss STI testing and screening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their STI testing, screening, and treatment guidelines in December 2021 and with them came some alarming statistics:
- 1 in 5 people in the US have an STI, with almost 20 million new infections per year and 50% of those infections occurring in youth aged 15-24.
- Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis represent the top 3 treatable STIs and account for 12.5 million infections each year.
- New STIs consume nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs.
Emphasized in the recent guidelines, one of the major contributors to this widespread problem is the fact that so many STIs are asymptomatic. This means an individual can be infected without knowing it and unintentionally spread the infection to others through sexual contact. This can be particularly problematic for women, as untreated STIs can cause significant long-term problems including chronic pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility and ectopic pregnancies, and passing the infection on to a baby during birth. Here are some of the numbers around asymptomatic STIs:
So we’re not just talking about a few cases here! These statistics led the CDC and other preventative health organizations to emphasize the need for STI screening. To understand its importance, we first need to differentiate screening from testing:
- Testing occurs when symptoms are present. If a patient has complaints of genital pain, irritation, rash, itchiness, discharge, or a variety of other symptoms, they can be tested for STIs to see if they are the cause.
- Screening occurs when there are no symptoms. In certain categories of individuals (for example, young sexually active women, or people who have multiple sex partners), the guidelines suggest screening for STIs in hopes of detecting them in patients who are unaware they are infected. The CDC has different screening recommendations for various patient groups and various STIs, which can be found here.
Again, we are talking about 12.5 million women each year, with 50-75% of them having no symptoms and likely no idea they are infected. So screening at-risk patients is critical to detecting and treating these infections and results in a win-win-win situation for the patient, their community, and the healthcare system.
At Industry Lab, we have engineered PCR products specifically to help combat this community health crisis. We not only have common STIs built into our Women’s Health and Urinary Tract Infection products to allow for comprehensive testing of symptomatic patients, but also a separate screening tool that can be employed in these high-risk populations with a simple urine sample or vaginal swab. This separate screening tool focuses on the “big three” highlighted by the CDC – chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomonas.
Industry Lab is committed to improving the health of the communities we serve. We hope you are able to share some love (and chocolate!) with those around you this Valentine’s Day!
Director of Clinical Treatment