Each year, the month of April is observed as Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) awareness month in the United States. The annual observance aims to generate public awareness about the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the lives of Americans and the importance of preventing, testing for and treating STDs. Sponsored by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), the event serves as an opportunity to normalize routine STD testing and conversations about sexual health. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) refer to infections that are generally acquired by sexual contact. Also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the organisms that cause such infections may pass from person to person through blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids. In some cases, these infections can be transmitted non-sexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles. STDs in some cases can cause a wide range of symptoms; whereas in other cases they don’t involve any specific symptoms. The condition may often go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed. Treatment modalities for these infections may generally depend on the type of infection and its related symptoms. Physicians treating this condition should have adequate knowledge about the latest guidelines or practices for medical billing and coding. For correct clinical documentation of this condition, physicians can rely on the services of reputable medical billing companies.

Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that half of all sexually transmitted diseases occur among people under the age of 25. About 20 million new cases of STDs (2018 statistics) occur in the United States each year. It is estimated that the medical costs for these new cases come around $16 billion. Potential factors that may increase the risk of STIs include – having unprotected sex, injecting or using recreational drugs, having sexual contact with multiple partners and having a history of STDs.

STDs most often are caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses. Sexual activity plays a significant role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it’s possible to be infected without sexual contact. The different types of STDs include – Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Chancroid, HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus), Hepatitis B, Trichomoniasis, Yeast infections and Jock itch. Common signs and symptoms associated with the condition include – pain during sex, painful or burning urination, discharge from the penis, lower abdominal pain, unusual or odd-smelling vaginal discharge and unusual vaginal bleeding.

Initial diagnosis of this condition will generally begin with a detailed evaluation of symptoms and previous sexual history. Diagnostic tests including blood tests, urine samples and fluid samples may be done to diagnose the type of infection. Laboratory tests of material from a genital sore or discharge are used to diagnose some STDs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers detailed guidelines for screening sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) –

  • All adults and adolescents aged 13-64 years should undergo a blood or saliva test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – the virus that causes AIDS.
  • All sexually active women under age 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and Chlamydia infection every year.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy.
  • All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.

Any diagnosis and screening procedures performed for evaluating the presence of bacteria and other infections related to STIs must be carefully documented using the right medical codes. Medical billing services offered by established medical billing companies can help physicians use the correct codes for their billing purposes. ICD-10 codes used for STDs include –

Z11 – Encounter for screening for infectious and parasitic diseases

  • Z11.0 – Encounter for screening for intestinal infectious diseases
  • Z11.1 – Encounter for screening for respiratory tuberculosis
  • Z11.2 – Encounter for screening for other bacterial diseases
  • Z11.3 – Encounter for screening for infections with a predominantly sexual mode of transmission
  • Z11.4 – Encounter for screening for human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]
  • Z11.5 – Encounter for screening for other viral diseases
    • Z11.51 – Encounter for screening for human papillomavirus (HPV)
    • Z11.59 – Encounter for screening for other viral diseases
  • Z11.6 – Encounter for screening for other protozoal diseases and helminthiases
  • Z11.8 – Encounter for screening for other infectious and parasitic diseases
  • Z11.9 – Encounter for screening for infectious and parasitic diseases, unspecified

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) month acts as a unique platform to spread awareness that having STD is not something anyone should be shamed or judged for. There are several myths and misapprehensions about having an STI, which play a role in why more people don’t get the tests and treatment they need. The campaign offers a platform for people to understand that all STIs, (including HIV) are treatable. Any person who ever had vaginal, anal or oral sex could get an STI. Therefore, getting tested early allows the person to take action to protect their health and the health of their partner or partners.

The theme for 2019 STD Awareness Month is – “Get Yourself Tested (GYT)” – which focuses on helping young people take charge of their sexual health, normalizing positive perceptions and beliefs about people who get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It encourages people to talk with their partners about getting tested and using protection.

As part of the campaign in April, the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) hosts various programs throughout the country to generate awareness about sexually transmitted infections, symptoms and the associated risk factors. These programs include – free STI screenings and tests, HPV Toolkits, patient counseling guides, videos that include the facts about STDs and condoms, listing of screening locations and sharing messages with family, friends and community via social media platforms (about the importance of getting tested for STDs).

Get Involved in STD Awareness Month in April! Spread more awareness about STDs and the importance of early testing.