ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The Department of Health in the City of St. Louis has long been aware of the problem with the very high rate of sexually transmitted disease among young people in our area. They are using Valentine’s week to tackle this head-on with a campaign that uses humor to raise awareness and encourage diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Dr. Sonny Saggar talks with Melanie Moon about this topic and this campaign.
1. What can you tell us about this new campaign?
Research with younger adults has shown that humor is an effective way to draw their attention to information about sexual health issues.
These humorous messages with serious undertones, developed by the clinics partnering with SexualHealthSTL.com in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), aim to raise awareness to this very important local epidemic of preventable infections. The short version of the message is simple: if you don’t want an unexpected and unwanted Valentine’s gift then don’t take risks with your sexual health: either abstain or use a condom!
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While the number of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea actually dropped by almost 10% in the St. Louis region in 2012, we still rank NUMBER 2 among the nation’s counties and independent cities for the two infections.
Compared with the rise in gonorrhea nationally, this slight decrease could actually be a sign of reduced access to care and diagnosis.
I feel that the 3 main barriers to care are:
- Access to affordable health care - which we address by not charging for diagnosis and treatment
- Awareness of the seriousness of no treatment - which we are addressing right now by talking about it
- Concerns about confidentiality - which are also addressed
More aggressive awareness, prevention and treatment programs are needed to tackle the problem before serious complications develop including infertility and an increased risk of contracting HIV. If these infections are left undiagnosed and untreated they can lead to serious problems later in life, with incredibly higher healthcare costs to treat them.
Because health experts estimate that fewer than half of people who contract chlamydia and gonorrhea are diagnosed and treated, identifying sexual partners is essential to prevent the continued spread of the infections, which can have no symptoms.
Since the closure last fall of safety net provider ConnectCare in north St. Louis, the city has contracted with other clinics to provide additional STD testing and treatment.
2. For those who don’t know, can you help define what is an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly called STDs or STIs, are spread by having sex with someone who has an STD. You can get a sexually transmitted disease from sexual activity that involves the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis.
It has historically been a big problem in St. Louis. Recent statistics state that one out of four teens in the United States becomes infected with an STD each year and by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young adults will get an STD.
3. Why is this important?
STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment. Some STDs, like HIV, cannot be cured and are deadly. By learning more, you can find out ways to protect yourself from the following STDs:
4. What Are the Symptoms of STDs?
Sometimes, there are no symptoms of STDs. If symptoms are present, they may include one or more of the following:
- Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina.
- Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina.
- Skin rash.
- Painful urination.
- Weight loss, loose stools, night sweats.
- Aches, pains, fever, and chills.
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
- Discharge from the penis or vagina. (Vaginal discharge may have an odor.)
- Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period.
- Painful sex.
- Severe itching near the penis or vagina.
5. What should someone do if they think they have an STD?
Talk to your doctor. He or she can examine you and perform tests to determine if you have an STD. Treatment can:
- Cure many STDs.
- Lessen the symptoms of STDs.
- Make it less likely that you will spread the disease.
- Help you to get healthy and stay healthy.
6. How Are STDs Treated?
Many STDs are treated with antibiotics. Some are treated with antivirals.
If you are given an antibiotic to treat an STD, it's important that you take all of the drug, even if the symptoms go away. Also, never take someone else's medicine to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make it more difficult to diagnose and treat the infection. Likewise, you should not share your medicine with others. Some doctors, however, may provide additional antibiotics to be given to your partner so that you can be treated at the same time.
7. How Can someone protect himself From STDs?
Here are some basic steps that you can take to protect yourself from STDs:
- Consider that not having sex or sexual relations (abstinence) is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex. (If you use a lubricant, make sure it is water-based.)
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch an STD.
- Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to reduce your risk.
- Choose your sex partners with care. Don't have sex with someone whom you suspect may have an STD. However, keep in mind that you can't always tell by looking if your partner has an STD.
- Get yourself routinely checked for STDs. Don't risk giving the infection to someone else.
- Don't use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to use a condom if you are under the influence.
- Know the signs and symptoms of STDs. Look for them in yourself and your sex partners.
- Learn about STDs. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
- If you have an STD, stop having sex until you see a doctor and are treated.
- Follow your doctor's instructions for treatment.
- Use condoms whenever you have sex, especially with new partners.
- Don't resume having sex unless your doctor or nurse practitioner says it's okay.
- Return to your doctor to get rechecked.
- Be sure your sex partner or partners also are treated.
- Many doctors recommend that all persons who have more than one sex partner should be tested for STDs regularly, even in the absence of symptoms.
8. How Can We Avoid Spreading an STD?
Anchor: Further information about this special Valentine’s Week Sexual Health Promotion campaign, being spearheaded by the Department of Health, can be found at the website SexualHealthSTL.com.
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St. Louis Urgent Cares presently has 4 locations in St. Louis, and all 4 are active participants in Direct Medical Care (the insurance alternative):
Downtown Urgent Care, Eureka Urgent Care and Creve Coeur Urgent Care, and North City Urgent Care.