TLC Family Resource Center and fellow members of the Greater Sullivan County Public Health Advisory Council want you to know that April is STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Awareness Month. We are participating in GYT (Get Yourself Tested), a national campaign focused on helping young people take control of their sexual health.
STIs are infections passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. They're really common, and lots of people who have them don't have any symptoms. STIs can be dangerous, but the good news is that getting tested is no big deal, and most STIs are easy to treat.
So why don’t more people get tested? Many don’t realize that they need to get tested, but anyone who has ever had any kind of sex could get an STI. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have one or not. You also can’t tell if *you* have an STI based on whether you have symptoms or not.
Getting tested is important not only to avoid serious, lifelong health problems, but also to put your body first, whether you’re in a relationship or not — and it is usually quick, easy, and painless. Rapid HIV tests can provide results in as little as 20 minutes from a simple swab along your gums and many STI tests just require peeing in a cup. Results are confidential, and all STIs, even HIV, are treatable if not curable.
While STIs tend to affect young people most often, it’s never too late to take charge of your health. It’s always a good idea to talk about using protection, like condoms and/or dental dams, and to get tested.
Getting an STI or having a partner with an STI is extremely common and is not something anyone should be stigmatized for. Having an STI is also not the end of your sex life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Your STI status doesn’t make you “clean” or “dirty.” What’s most important is making sure you have the facts — no matter what your status is.
Having an open and honest conversation about STIs early on can bring you closer to a partner; it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. You can start by saying, “I'm a little nervous to bring this up...but I want us to be healthy and I think it's important.” Your partner may actually be relieved to hear this and glad to learn that getting tested isn’t a big deal.
Here in Sullivan County, Planned Parenthood provides low cost or no cost testing in Claremont. It also serves residents at its clinic in White River Junction. Helpful videos on how to discuss STIs are available online at www.ppnne.org.
STI prevention is a core part of our County’s public health care initiative and education efforts. We believe, as does Planned Parenthood, that everyone — regardless of race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, income, country of origin, faith, and immigrant or refugee status, deserves a healthy, shame-free, and safe sex life. And access to safer sex — including tools, testing, and treatment — and education about STIs is the best way to ensure that people of all ages stay healthy and safe. Look for new containers of free condoms and dental dams in our offices as well as many other locations throughout the community this spring.
We hope you get yourself some free protection, get yourself talking, get yourself tested, get yourself treated, and keep yourself healthy.
By Liza Draper
Here’s something to think about while you finish your holiday shopping: 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported annually in the U.S. – and more than half affect young people ages 15-24. That means one in four sexually active teens today has an STI. Yikes!
STIs are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. Many of these do not show symptoms for a long time. Even without symptoms, they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.
Wait, there’s more:
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says there was a 36 percent increase in rates of syphilis among women and a 28 percent increase in syphilis among newborns from 2015 to 2016 alone. The number of gonorrhea cases in New Hampshire is skyrocketing. These increases are seriously scary, especially since drug resistance to the last remaining recommended gonorrhea treatment is on the rise.
What’s going on?
Lots of factors put teens at greater risk for infection. For one, young women’s bodies are biologically more prone to infection. Then there’s the fact that teens in general tend to be hesitant to talk about sex with healthcare providers. Many young people don’t get tested for STIs, assuming they are not at risk.
ANYONE who is sexually active can get an STI. You don’t even have to “go all the way” (have anal or vaginal sex), since some STIs can be spread through oral sex too, and some, like herpes and HPV, are spread just by skin-to-skin contact. Plus, most STIs don’t cause any symptoms that you would notice. You can get an STI from having sex with someone who has no symptoms! Just like you, that person might not even know they have an infection.
Some curable STIs can be dangerous if they aren’t treated. For example, if left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can make it difficult—or even impossible—for a woman to get pregnant. You also increase your chances of getting HIV if you have an untreated STI. And some STIs, like HIV, can be fatal if left untreated. They aren’t curable, but a healthcare provider can prescribe medicine to treat the symptoms.
What can you do?
The only method that’s 100% effective in preventing STIs is abstinence. So if you think you’re ready to have sex you need to be ready to protect your body.
So as you’re finishing your shopping remember that there are some really important things to wrap this holiday…and condoms/dental dams make great stocking stuffers!
At TLC Family Resource Center we support and strengthen all families, children, and youth in Sullivan and Lower Grafton counties with a wide range of free programs, support groups, education, and events.
Media Contact: Maggie Monroe-Cassel
109 Pleasant Street | PO Box 1098 | Claremont, NH 03743 | 603-542-1848 | Fax: 603-542-1846
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