The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) recognizes April as Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month in Mississippi, and encourages men and women to learn more about these life-threatening diseases.
In 2010, 28,991 cases of sexually transmitted disease (STD) infection were reported in Mississippi. Especially hard-hit were the state's minority populations, comprising 89 percent of reported cases. Gonorrhea infection rates were over 16 times greater among African-Americans than whites; chlamydia rates were nine times as great. Young people were also disproportionately affected by STDs: 75 percent of new chlamydia and gonorrhea infections occurred among the 15 to 24 age group, while those ages 25 to 44 represented 47 percent of new primary and secondary syphilis and HIV infections.
Screening and early diagnosis are vital to prevent the serious health consequences of STD infection. Left untreated, STDs can cause lasting health problems and even lead to death. Among women, chlamydia and gonorrhea infections can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a major cause of infertility, ectopic pregnancies and chronic pelvic pain. Both diseases can also facilitate the transmission of HIV.
Dr. Nick Mosca, Director of the MSDH Bureau of STD/HIV, said that there are methods to prevent the spread of STDs.
"Sexually transmitted diseases occur through unsafe sexual behaviors. People may reduce their risk by having a mutually exclusive sexual partner or by abstaining from sexual acts," said Mosca. "Sexually active individuals may lower their risk through correct and consistent use of condoms."
Individuals may receive free and confidential STD testing at any county health department. For more information about STD screening, treatment or prevention, call MSDH at 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948) or visit online at www.healthyms.com.