Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can a few beers give you an STD?

Everyone knows that partying under the influence can put folks at risk of driving dangerously, of intoxication, of acting stupid, of triggering alcoholism, of doing risky things, and of countless other regrettable escapades.

But now we have data that also shows that binge drinkers, particularly female binge drinkers, are at risk of engaging in risky sexual behaviors and therefore are more likely to contract STDs. These risky behaviors include unprotected sex, multiple partners and receptive anal sex. Just as a reminder, binge drinking is defined as more than 5 drinks in a row for males and more than 4 in a row for females.

Screening for STD's has become very easy with the technology known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and can be done on a random urine sample. No pelvic exam necessary. Men can--and should--also be screened for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea using this simple technology. In spite of this the CDC has documented appallingly low rates of screening among young women presenting for routine preventive visits to outpatient facilities. Even with under-reporting the rates of STD's are rising. It should come as no surprise since unscreened, asymptomatic carriers continue to spread their infections without even realizing it.

Next time you go for a check up, ask to be screened. Ask specifically. Just because they ask you for a urine specimen does not mean it is being sent to the lab for STD screening. Feel no shame; it would be a real shame to be responsible for spreading disease!

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