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Health Department: Protect yourself from STDs

 By Tyler Miller-Bost

Rowan County Health Department

The rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Rowan County continue to steadily rise, especially HIV and syphilis. Populations most at risk for STDs are young adults and teenagers less than 25 years of age, males that have sex with other males, and individuals participating in risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex for drugs or money. High re-infection rates are due to the lack of partner notification following treatment and lack of abstaining from sex for the recommended 10 day time frame after treatment. Additionally, certain STDs such as herpes and HIV have no cure.

Drug resistance issues have become especially worrisome for the medical community. Over the past six years the treatment protocol for gonorrhea has changed three times due to high prevalence and high re-infection rates. This is particularly alarming and leads to different medications having to be added to treatment regimens because the bacteria that causes gonorrhea is outsmarting the antibiotics once used to treat it. This can lead to once treatable STDs becoming super bugs that cannot be cured and can be transmitted to others.

Furthermore, sexually transmitted disease do not always cause genital-specific symptoms and can occasionally manifest themselves in form of rash, gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and cramping, and menstrual changes such as irregular periods and spotting. Oftentimes STDs have no symptoms and are only identified through routine testing.

Fortunately, the Rowan County Health Department is well equipped to assist with STD testing and treatment at no charge to the public. Pregnant women are routinely checked for STDs at the beginning of the pregnancy and again at 36 weeks gestation. We routinely check patients 25 years of age and younger at their annual physicals, offer STD screening appointments, and see anyone with suspected STD symptoms within 24 hours.

Untreated STDs can lead to severe problems. Undiagnosed and untreated STDs can result in infertility due to scarring, pelvic inflammatory disease, and vision and memory loss. Although pregnant women are routinely tested for STDs, the infants of women not receiving prenatal care are at risk for chlamydial conjunctivitis, pneumonia, and newborn herpes.

Condoms, monogamy, and patient adherence to treatment plans are imperative to help with this very real public health issue. Educational efforts are and will continue to be an important way to address this epidemic.

 

Bost is a certified family nurse practitioner at the Rowan County Health Department.

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