News Release

April 8, 2004

HDHHS recommends residents assess risks for STDs

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) urges residents to assess their risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by learning about behaviors that increase their odds of becoming infected. HDHHS also encourages Houstonians to get tested so they know their STD status.

April is STD Awareness Month.


Since signs or symptoms of STDs are often not present or difficult to detect, HDHHS recommends partners talk to each other about any potential risk for STDs. If left untreated, STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can result in infertility, chronic pain and a two to five fold increase in the likelihood of contracting and spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

STDs are spread during sexual activity, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Some STDs are also spread by contact with infected blood. Below are a range of recommendations that help protect people from becoming infected with an STD.
  • Abstain from sex or have sex with only a monogamous uninfected partner; talk to sexual partners about their STD status; use a latex condom; get tested for STDs regularly; know the signs and symptoms of STDs; get treated if infected and don’t have sex until treatment is complete.

Many STDs have similar symptoms. Many infected people have no symptoms at all, but those that could develop include:

Women:

  • Unusual discharge or odor from vagina; pain in pelvic area; burning or itching around vagina; vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles or periods; unusual pain during sex

Men:

  • Drip or discharge from sex organs; unusual pain during sex

Both women and men:

  • Sores, bumps or blisters near or on sex organs, rectum or mouth; burning and pain when urinating or having bowel movement; urinating often; itching around sex organs; swelling or redness in throat; flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and aches; swelling in groin or area around sex organs

HDHHS recommends immediate testing to those who notice any STD symptom or suspect an infection, prompt treatment to those infected and informing sexual partners they possibly exposed to an STD. HDHHS has STD clinics and private doctors also treat STDs.

Although STDs can affect anyone, certain groups appear to be at higher risk.
In Houston and Harris County, 88 percent of syphilis cases in the early—infectious—stages occur in people age 20 to 49. Eighty three percent of cases are among males, a figure attributed to the syphilis outbreak in recent years among gay and bisexual men. White men represent half of the cases in the outbreak, followed by Hispanic men at 25 percent and black men, 24 percent. Among all early syphilis cases, 28 percent are in Hispanics, 36 percent in black and 35 percent in whites.

Eighty six percent of chlamydia cases occur in people 15 to 29 years of age. Cases among females are disproportionately high, making up 83 percent of the chlamydia cases. Chlamydia can destroy a woman’s reproductive system and cause chronic pain. Among women, 34 percent of cases occur in Hispanics, 35 percent in blacks and 9 percent in whites. Among all male and female chlamydia cases, 33 percent of cases occur among Hispanics, 37 percent among blacks and 9 percent among whites.

In Houston and Harris County, 88 percent of gonorrhea cases occur among people age 15 to 39. The breakdown between both sexes is relatively equal, with 53 percent men and 47 percent women. Thirteen percent of cases occur among Hispanics, 64 percent among blacks and 7 percent among whites.

For more information about STD prevention and education, call HDHHS’ HIV/STD Hotline at 713-794-9020. For additional STD statistics for Houston and Harris County, visit HDHHS’ HIV/STD web pages.

-30-