The number of STD cases — chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis — is at a 20-year high in California. Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest is encouraging all those who are sexually active to make sure to use barrier methods.

“Screening for sexually-transmitted diseases is what we do,” said Janeen Burlison, senior director of quality at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. “We value it as a means of early detection, in order to ensure early treatment and prevent transmission to partners.”

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported a total of 249,224 cases of STDs in California in 2015, an 11.6 percent increase over the previous year.

California’s STD rates continue to be highest in young people 15-24 years of age, especially females. These young women are the most vulnerable to infertility and other serious long-term reproductive health problems caused by STDs.

“The use of condoms is the best way to avoid chlamydia and gonorrhea,” said Burlison. “Either, if left untreated, can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which in turn can lead to infertility.”

Burlison theorizes that because people are now less afraid of contracting HIV, they’re not taking proper precautions against other more common STDs.

“Because the perceived risk of HIV has been decreased, younger people don’t have the fear associated with it. They’re using fewer barrier methods to prevent STDs,” Burlison said.

Both Burlison and Jill Pierce, RN at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, emphasize that everyone should be using a barrier method during sexual activity.

“What we advise is to practice safer sex,” said Pierce. “Get tested after the end of a relationship, before a new partner, and at least annually—whether or not you’re in a relationship. And if you’re diagnosed with an STD, come in and get treatment.”

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