Many people struggle to find the right words to start the conversation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). April is Louisiana STD Awareness Month, with the theme of “Start the Conversation — About STDs.” Its slogan is, “It doesn’t matter how, it just matters that you do. Start the conversation!”

Sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Health’s STD/HIV Program, Louisiana STD Awareness Month is being held in tandem with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National STD Awareness Month.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are often talked about in hushed whispers or not at all. This April, I encourage all Louisianans to have the talk about sexually transmitted diseases —with doctors, with friends, with teens and with others,” said Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health. “By bringing this conversation into the light, we lessen the stigma for those who are affected by STDs. We can’t afford to keep this conversation in the dark.”

Why it matters

Louisiana has some of the highest STD rates in the United States, according to the CDC’s 2017 STD Surveillance Report:

  • #1 for congenital syphilis case rates (newborns with syphilis)
  • #2 for chlamydia case rates
  • #3 for primary and secondary syphilis case rates (most infectious stages)
  • #3 for gonorrhea case rates

The STD/HIV Program, local community partners and healthcare leaders are working diligently to address the increasing rates of these diseases, as well as HIV/AIDS and others. These efforts are further enhanced when the community is involved and educated about STDs, how they are spread and how to prevent transmission.

“Education is crucial to slowing and even stopping the spread of STDs in our communities,” Dr. Billioux said. “Through education, you empower yourself by controlling your own health while also looking out for the health of your sexual partners. Take the opportunity this month to learn about STDs and have the conversation with others.”

Get involved

Healthcare providers should talk with their patients about STDs, and community members are encouraged to start the conversation in places such as hair salons, barbershops, grocery stores, gyms and local hangouts.

Throughout April, the Office of Public Health will have STD and HIV information available at select parish health units and community events. Also, community members who want to learn more about STDs or are interested in being tested for STDs may call their local parish health unit for dates and times of clinics in their area.

Other ways to get involved include wearing green on April 12 and April 26 for STD awareness, participating in scheduled events and engaging in social media with the #STDMonthLa hashtag.

For more information, visit the Louisiana Health Hub.