Good news: More than one million sexual health screens were conducted in Britain in 2007, up 10% from 2006.

Bad news: Diagnosed cases of chlamydia increased by more than 22,000 in the United Kingdom. Youch!

Chlamydia isn’t reserved for the UK alone; heck, no–we’ve got plenty of cases in the United States too. Estimates have American chlamydia cases at 2.3 million with less than half of those actually reported in all 50 states. Yikes!!!

So you know what that means? Well, first let me give you a few facts: Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is often silent–that is, many people infected with the bacterium (Chlamydia trachomatis) don’t even know it. People that do know generally find out when they develop symptoms: Burning and itching around the penis in men, along with discharge and pissing razor blades. In women, abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating, while those whose infection spreads to the cervix and fallopian tubes might experience lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods.

Worse yet, because chlamydia is silent in so many people–in other words, no symptoms–many cases go undetected, and thus untreated. As a result, infections can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. In women it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) (you don’t want that) and ultimately, ectopic pregnancy and infertility (definitely don’t want that) . Complications in men are rare but can lead to infection of the epididymis, which can cause sterility.

OK, so now what does this all mean? First, one in ten women are infected. So guys, one out of every ten women you hit on are potential carriers* And for women who like women…bad news–you can get chlamydia through oral sex, so infection of the throat is not uncommon. And women who like guys–one in every twelve men is infected, so if you have many options in the dating scene…ahem…practice caution. And guys to guys–well, you’ve got the triple threat, so see the prevention tips below.

Finally, which group is catching and passing chlamydia the most? Youngsters–people aged 18-24 are the highest risk group. So what to do? Here are the tips:

  • Keeping it in your pants is the best all around protection, period. Too prudish for you?
  • Then having a long-term, monogamous relationship also helps. But if that just isn’t in the cards,
  • then using condoms, properly, every time you have sex is a must. No glove, no love, baby.
  • and then getting tested annually is a great idea, especially if you’re female, under twenty-five, and sexually active (particularly if you have multiple sex partners).

If you fear that you might have a sexually transmitted disease, don’t hesitate, get tested. If you need further info, check out:

Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/std

*I’m using British numbers here, but for all intents and purposes, we can extrapolate them to qualify the point–U.S. chlamydia numbers are actually 0.1% higher; and since our population is about five times greater than the U.K.’s…well, you do the math.

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