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Teen STDs are preventable, treatable

Teen STDs are preventable, treatable

Rome, GA: “Nationally, about 40% of teens are sexually active by the age of 19. Of those, one in four has at least one STD.  We might not be able to imagine our child in a sexual relationship,” says Melissa Hunter, MPH, epidemiology program director for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District “and yet our kids do have sexual lives, and those lives are putting them at risk for diseases that are currently on the rise —  diseases we can help prevent and treat.”

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), are diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common STDs we see with teens in the Northwest Health District,” according to Hunter.

The most recent data available show that in 2015 there were 651 chlamydia cases and 85 gonorrhea cases among northwest Georgia teens aged 15 – 19. “We see other STDs in our teen population, but these two are our biggest concerns,” Hunter says.

“Individuals with chlamydia and gonorrhea sometimes have no symptoms or may overlook them, so many infections go undiagnosed. This can cause serious health complications for men and have lifelong repercussions for a woman’s reproductive health, including infertility.”

“It’s crucial to educate our teens about how STDs are transmitted, how to protect themselves and how to seek medical treatment when needed, “says Hunter. “Teens shouldn’t just hope an STD will go away. It won’t.”

Hunter says she wants all northwest Georgia teens and their parents to know that their local county health department offers confidential, teen-friendly STD testing and treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes and genital warts. She’s also quick to point out that if a teen is at risk of any STD, he or she is also at risk of HIV.

According to Hunter, young people are at greater risk of getting an STD for several reasons. “Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs.  Some young people do not get the recommended STD tests, and many young people are hesitant to talk openly and honestly with a doctor or nurse about their sex lives,” Hunter says.  “Not having insurance or transportation can make it more difficult for young people to access STD testing, and some young people have more than one sex partner.”

“The surest way for teens to protect themselves against STDs, of course, is abstinence —  to not have sex  —  but we know that’s not always going to be the decision.”  Hunter stresses that if teens do decide to have sex, “you and your partner should get tested beforehand and make sure that you and your partner use a condom, every time you have sex, from start to finish. Know where to get condoms and how to use them correctly. It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested, know your status and are in a mutually monogamous relationship.”

Hunter emphasizes that many STDs don’t cause any symptoms that teens would notice, so the only way to know for sure if they have an STD is to get tested. “You can get an STD from having sex with someone who has no symptoms. Just like you, that person might not even know he or she has an STD,” Hunter says.

Teens and/or their parents can contact the following county health departments for more information on STD prevention, testing, and treatment as well as information on costs and types of payment methods accepted:

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About the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District: The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District works to inform, protect and prevent, thereby improving the quality of life for individuals and families in ten northwest Georgia counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker. We provide exceptional medical services, track and prevent the spread of disease, promote health and safety through education and communication, monitor area environmental safety, including restaurant and other food-service inspections, and ensure our community is prepared for public health emergencies. Find us on the web at http://nwgapublichealth.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/NorthwestHealthDistrict/

 

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