Written by Clare Coleman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.
This article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness.
Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning providers have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income and uninsured individuals. Screening, testing, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are key components of the essential health education and services provided by family planning providers each year. In 2010, the Title X family planning network performed over 6 million STD tests, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year, and over 1.1 million HIV tests, a 10 percent increase over 2009. Family planning and sexual health programs have a tremendous amount of expertise in targeting “hard-to-reach” populations, particularly through education and counseling.
Family planning providers have long understood the role sexual health plays in the lifelong health and well-being of their patients. Suspected of being the number one cause
of preventable infertility, chlamydia – a curable infection – is the most common bacterial STD in the US, with an estimated 2.8 million infections annually. Annual US gonorrhea infections are estimated to be as high as 700,000 a year. If left untreated, both infections can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID and other infections
in the upper genital tract can cause damage leading to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.
Recognizing the important role publicly funded family planning providers can and do play in STD prevention, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports chlamydia and gonorrhea prevention efforts in family planning health centers through the Infertility Prevention Project (IPP).