IDPH Observes STI Awareness Week, Urges Public to Get Educated & Practice Prevention
CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is joining public health partners around the state and nation in observing April 9-15 as STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Awareness Week. Observed annually in the second full week in April, STI Awareness Week is intended to raise awareness about STIs, promote sexual health as an essential part of overall health, and to reduce STI-related stigma, fear, and discrimination.
“Sexual health is an important part of our overall health,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said. “It is crucial for all of us to raise awareness this week and every week to reduce STI-related stigma, fear, and discrimination. STIs are once again on the increase following the pandemic, and it is important to practice behaviors that lower the chance of contracting STIs. These include limiting the number of partners, getting vaccinated for vaccine preventable conditions, including HPV and Mpox virus, having a good line of communication with sexual partners, and frequent testing.”
IDPH strives throughout the year to work with Illinois stakeholders to ensure people have the knowledge and tools need to prevent STIs, including access to testing and treatment.
The CDC released new data today that shows STI’s are on the increase following a decline during the pandemic. More than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the U.S. in 2021. Chlamydial infections increased nationally by 4.1% from 2020, signaling a return to pre-pandemic levels. Gonorrhea increased by 28% since 2017, and syphilis surged ahead with a 74% increase since 2017. Congenital syphilis has risen by 203% in the past five years, with 38 jurisdictions reporting an increase in cases.
In addition, Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) is a virus that was introduced to the U.S. and Illinois STI landscape in 2022. Since it has only recently been reported in the United States, yearly data trends have not been established. Provisional 2022 numbers for Mpox show over 1,400 infections in Illinois residents.
Illinois currently ranks 11th in the nation for chlamydia infections, 15th for gonorrhea infections, 29th for primary and secondary syphilis infections, 27th for congenital syphilis, and 6th for Mpox infections.
STIs are some of the most common reported infections in the United States with almost 26 million new STIs reported each year. Of these new infections, half are among young people 15-24 years of age. Many STIs can be easily diagnosed and treated; but it is common for many people to not know they have an STI because they may not have any signs or symptoms. This makes screening for STIs important for preventing the spread and for preventing other potentially serious health problems including fertility complications and increased HIV risk.
Public health officials stress that individuals can lower the chance of contracting STIs by limiting the number of partners, getting vaccinated for vaccine preventable conditions (i.e., HPV and Mpox virus), and having a good line of communication and frequent testing with sexual partners. Since teens and young adults make up so many new infections, it is important to have open and positive conversations with their partners to reduce spread.
Sexual health awareness is also important when it comes to new infections and disease outbreaks, such as Mpox, of which there was an outbreak in 2022. While Mpox can affect anyone, people who are living with HIV and others who have compromised immune systems have been disproportionally affected with more severe infections and hospitalizations. Using personal risk reduction techniques ensures individuals can maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life while protecting themselves and their partners.
If you have additional questions or concerns, reach out to our confidential STI/HIV hotline 800-243-2437 or your trusted health care provider.
For information about confidential STI/HIV testing in your area, visit https://gettested.cdc.gov or call your local health department.
Click HERE for more information about IDPH’s STI prevention efforts.