Editorial: Talk to your doctor about STDs


Caela Go | Staff Photographer

Condoms can be used to reduce the transmission of some STDs.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Sexually transmitted disease rates are soaring nationally, and this rise doesn’t exclude Pitt students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 14% increase between 2017 and 2018 in reported cases of syphilis, a 5% increase in gonorrhea and a 3% increase in chlamydia. But while the rates of STDs are increasing, the amount of people visiting doctors for STD diagnosis is decreasing. Instead, people are turning to the internet.

And while people get immediate responses that are free and require less effort than visiting a doctor for diagnosis, it’s a dangerous gamble, according to a study conducted by the UC San Diego School of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health. There are resources safer than relying on the internet — even for those without health insurance.

Diagnoses offered by internet users are often “wildly inaccurate,” according to the UC San Diego study, and the recommended treatments — like apple cider vinegar — were frequently contrary to what a trained medical doctor would prescribe in terms of treatment. Most STDs aren’t dangerous to the carrier’s health unless they go untreated, which is much more likely to happen if someone doesn’t visit a doctor. Chlamydia, which is often asymptomatic, can permanently damage a woman’s reproductive system if left untreated. Untreated syphilis can cause dementia, blindness and paralysis.

STDs like syphilis typically require a blood test for diagnosis, which means that it’s nearly impossible for a person to know if they are infected unless they visit a doctor and have lab work done. Planned Parenthood offers low- to no-cost STD tests regardless of insurance status. Most college campuses — including Pitt — also offer free resources to those who want to be tested for STDs. A Google search by city will also display other cheap or free places in the area where people can find STD testing and resources. The Allegheny County Health Clinic, for example, offers free STD testing almost every day of the year. They do not require insurance, parental consent, knowledge of immigration status or any other legal information.

The cost of antibiotics for chlamydia is only about $10 for those without insurance and sometimes free for those with insurance. As untreated STDs progress, treatment can become much more expensive, and the effects of the disease much more severe. Medical testing, rather than asking the internet, is also important because of the rate at which STDs can spread. When someone has an STD, they put every sexual partner at high risk of also contracting the STD. It is a sexual partner’s responsibility to be able to confidently say they aren’t infected. The only way to do this is to visit a doctor.

Asking the internet about an STD diagnosis may be easier, faster and a little less embarrassing, but it’s unproductive and dangerous. The costs of ignoring STDs far outweigh the costs of being tested and treated. In general, it’s best not to take advice from the internet. Especially not when it comes to STDs.