Why Aren’t Straight Men Told to Get STD Tests?

By
This should happen more often. Corbis

America the beautiful has a raging STD problem and there’s a possible solution that isn’t being explored: recommending that straight men be screened annually.

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual surveillance report on sexually transmitted diseases in the United States and the news isn’t great. The CDC requires healthcare providers to report cases of three STDs: syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Rates of all three increased from 2013 to 2014 — the first time that’s happened since 2006.

There were 20,000 cases of syphilis (up 15 percent); 350,000 cases of gonorrhea (up 5.1 percent); and a whopping 1.4 million cases of chlamydia (up 2.8 percent). That chlamydia stat is “the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to CDC.” (Note that cases of herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, and trichomoniasis are not routinely reported to the CDC.) And because plenty of cases go undiagnosed, all of those numbers might be higher in reality.

People between the ages of 15 and 24 had the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia, which often have no symptoms and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women if left untreated. As Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, said in a release: “America’s worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.”

It sure is! But the screening recommendations released with the report only name two groups: women, and gay and bisexual men. The CDC suggests that "if you are a sexually active woman younger than 25, or have risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, you should request annual chlamydia and gonorrhea tests." Women are supposed to be visiting the gynecologist annually anyway, and doctors routinely offer those exams. But ask yourself this: Where are women getting these STDs? From other women and bisexual men, some of them, but also from straight men, who aren’t currently included in the screening recommendations.

Missing someone here. Photo: cdc.gov

Dear CDC: please add hetero men to your list for annual testing. They could have it done at a health clinic, or at their regular doctor, who might actually hound them if they’re due for an appointment. It might not be fun, but then, neither is gonorrhea.