STDs spread statewide

April 5, 2017 GMT

Georgia Department of Public Health news release

April is STD Awareness Month, an annual observance to raise public awareness about the impact of STDs on the lives of northwest Georgians and the importance of preventing, testing for and treating STDs. It is an opportunity to normalize routine STD testing and conversations about sexual health.

Teen STDs are preventable, treatable

“Nationally, about 40 percent 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,” Walker County Health Department Nurse Manager Tracy Pevehouse said, “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 Walker County teens, according to Pevehouse

The most recent data available for Walker County show that in 2015 there were 53 chlamydia cases and 6 gonorrhea cases among Walker County teens aged 15 – 19.

“We see other STDs in our teen population, but these two are our biggest concerns,” Pevehouse said. Individuals with chlamydia and gonorrhea sometimes have no symptoms or may overlook them, so many infections go undiagnosed, she said.. 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, ” Pevehouse said. “Teens shouldn’t just hope an STD will go away. It won’t.”

Pevehouse says she wants all Walker County teens and their parents to know that the Walker County Health Department offers confidential, teen-friendly STD testing and treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes and genital warts.

If a teen is at risk of any STD, he or she is also at risk of HIV.

According to Pevehouse, young people are at greater risk of getting an STD for several reasons.

“Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs,” she said. “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.

“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.”

Pevehouse 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.”

Pevehouse 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,” she said. “Just like you, that person might not even know he or she has an STD.”

Teens and/or their parents can contact the Walker County Health Department, 603 E. Villanow St., LaFayette, for more information on STD prevention, testing and treatment.

Acceptable payment methods include cash, credit-or-debit card, Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia, Cigna, and United Health Care SHBP.

Walker County Health Department hours are Monday Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m, Thursday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m, and Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours for the Environmental Health office are Monday – Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Contact the Walker County Health Department, 603 E. Villanow St., LaFayette, at 706-638-5577; the Environmental Health office, 101 Napier St., LaFayette, at 706-639-2574, or visit online at http://nwgapublichealth.org/counties/walker/

The Walker County Health Department works to inform, protect and prevent, thereby improving the quality of life for individuals and families in Walker County. 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 foodservice inspections, and ensure our community is prepared for public health emergencies.