Chlamydia: The Silent STD

March 9, 2010

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) remain a serious problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.2% of those aged 14-49 have genital herpes, more than 700,000 people contract gonorrhea every year with only half of all cases reported, and while millions of young people aged 14-39 have contracted chlamydia, it is believed to be very much an under-reported disease. That's because chlamydia has no symptoms or only very mild symptoms.

Shocking Statistics About Chlamydia

In spite of these shocking statistics, a new survey finds that most people are willing to have sex with someone who outright refuses to get tested for STD's even though they know they're taking a risk. Analyte Media co-founder Michelle Sobel says, "Discussions about sex and health are awkward, so we don’t have them." Analyte Media publishes the STD Test Express site which is responsible for conducting the survey. Sobel explains that when there is ardent attraction, people don't want to ask about STD's or press that a potential sexual partner be tested.

The STD Test Express is an online testing facility. Sobel says that this manner of testing makes for faster, cheaper, and easier testing. It's also more confidential than a face-to-face testing facility. "A lot of people want privacy and confidentiality," she said.

On Target: Chlamydia Studies

The new survey included 100 participants, 50 male and 50 female. While the dependability of the results is a bit questionable, due to the small scale and non-random nature of the survey, experts believe that the findings are probably close to being on-target. Larisa Niles-Carnes, an educator with Planned Parenthood of Indiana says, "It isn’t too far-fetched. People just get caught up in the moment."

Carnes feels that people are more impulsive when they are infatuated, and this is even truer during spring break, or Indiana University's Little 500, for instance. People tend to explain this carelessness away to hormones taking over, says Niles-Carnes. Other factors for looking the other way on the issue of STD testing are the level of a person's education, their awareness of STD issues, how much they trust their boy or girlfriend, whether they have drunk alcohol, and how much alcohol they've consumed.

Sexual Risks

Associate scientist Erick Janssen of The Kinsey Institute says, "There are a lot of factors that go into why people make decisions they might regret later." Janssen adds current mood to the list of causal factors, and cites research that suggests that some people will take sexual risks when they are anxious or depressed.

Debby Herbenick, who hails from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and writes an advice column for Kinsey Confidential says people are under the mistaken impression that if a potential partner seems healthy, he must be clean of STD's, so they don't press for testing. But many STD's have no symptoms, at least at the outset of infection. Herbenick says that for this reason, she calls chlamydia the "silent" STD.

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