The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new study indicating that 54 percent of OB/GYNs and 57 percent of family practice physicians report discussing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with "all" or "most" of their non-pregnant, sexually active, routine gynecological patients. The numbers are slightly lower when it comes to discussing HIV/AIDS (43 percent of OB/GYNs, 53 percent of family physicians).

With an estimated 15 million new cases occurring annually, STDs are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States today, according to a 1998 report by the American Social Health Association and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yet the lack of initial symptoms leads many people to underestimate their own risk or to be unaware that they are infected.

Many women rely on their physicians to help them assess whether they are at risk for STDs, and to provide them with information about testing, treatment, and how to protect themselves, according to the survey summary. Whether a woman should be screened--and for which STD--depends in large part on ther risk factors, which can only come to light, as the report states, "during a frank and open discussion with her healthcare provider."

To learn more about what physicians should be doing to screen women for STDs, visit the Centers For Disease Control STD website.