Unlike my female friends, who I have overheard discussing the safety and health of their sex lives, men seem to avoid conversations like that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent studies on some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis) show that while female rates for these STDs either remained the same or declined, men’s infection rates increased, especially with syphilis. Men made up 91 percent of all reported primary and secondary syphilis cases reported during the study.
Don’t stick your head in the sand: Get yourself tested!
Though women are at higher risk of contracting STDs due to their anatomy, their infection rates are dropping while men’s are rising. So what is causing the increase in male STD incidence, and what can we do to fix it?
One of the possible issues is that, on average, women see the doctor more often than men. Young people are notorious for not getting their annual checkups with their primary care physicians since they are usually healthy. That, combined with the lack of gender-specific male doctors, really leaves no incentive for men to go to the doctor.
The second issue is an open dialogue with men. If you get a guy to the doctor, like many people, he may find it uncomfortable talking to his primary care physician about a delicate topic like STDs. Also, on the STD and HIV screening recommendation page of the CDC’s website, it recommends that women as well as MSM (men who have sex with men) get tested regularly.
But what about heterosexual men? What are the CDC’s recommendations for them? Nothing. Nowhere does it recommend on the page that heterosexual men get tested, even though many STDs go largely unnoticed in men. The CDC even said that men’s lower rate of chlamydia, compared to women, “suggests that many of the sex partners of women with chlamydia are not receiving a diagnosis of chlamydia or being reported as having chlamydia.” So infected men who aren’t diagnosed are a significant problem, but not one that should be mentioned in their recommendations? If anything, that encourages men to stick their heads back in the sand and only perpetuates the problem of undiagnosed men.
So what should heterosexual men do?
- Use a condom properly every time. Aside from abstinence (which isn’t too popular), condoms are the best way to prevent an STD.
- Mutual monogamy. If neither partner has an STD (the only way to know is to get tested) and both stay sexually exclusive with one another, the chances of contracting most types of STDs are very low.
- Get tested and encourage others to do so as well. Remind others that STDs usually show no symptoms.
- Help raise awareness that STDs can be mostly prevented through abstinence, safe sex, and, if contracted, can be cured or managed if diagnosed early on.
GYT: Get Yourself Talking. Get Yourself Tested. Planned Parenthood Arizona is here to help you stay sexually healthy through our health services, education, and advocacy efforts. Visit ppaz.org for more information, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr!