But venereal diseases—or as they are better known now, sexually transmitted diseases, or STDS—are no laughing matter.
That said, an STD isn’t the end of the world either, especially if you deal with it quickly.
April is STD Awareness Month and we’re making an extra push to get the word out about how easy it is to visit Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services program for screening.
Finding out if you have one may seem difficult emotionally, but not finding out is worse. Many STDs are curable, and others can be managed. It’s better for your health to take the plunge and deal with it. And it’s also better not to pass on an STD to your significant other, or anyone else you might be meeting up with.
This year’s theme for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s STD Awareness Month is Treat Me Right. It encourages providers and patients to develop a good relationship with each other. Providers should be prepared to screen for STDs, ask the correct questions in a compassionate manner and to make their patients feel comfortable enough to discuss them. Patients should know what questions to ask and be prepared to respond to queries from their practitioners to protect their own health.
Here is a list of qualities to look for in a provider. Do they:
• Treat you with respect?
• Listen to your opinions and concerns?
• Encourage you to ask questions?
• Explain things in ways you understand?
• Recommend preventive services, like screening tests and shots?
This is where MCHD’s Clinical Services, which runs the STD Clinic, comes into play. Here at MCHD, patients can expect friendly and non-judgmental care from our team of professional nurses who understand that STDs can happen to anyone.
What’s even better, STD testing and treatment are free year-round.
Who should get tested? Are you sexually active or have you ever been? Then you should consider testing. Cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are at an all-time high. And everyone should be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetimes, and more often depending on certain risk factors.
Of course, testing and treatment are key but there are other steps to take to protect your health. The only way to never get an STD is to avoid sex altogether. But there are ways to reduce the risk without moving to a monastery.
Here are some tips to follow to reduce your risk of getting an STD if you don’t wish to practice abstinence:
• Reduce your number of sexual partners;
• Use condoms;
• Limit use of alcohol and drugs, especially before and during sex;
• Mutually agree with your partner to practice monogamy;
• Get vaccinated. Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable. The vaccine to prevent HPV is recommended for boys and girls at ages 11 or 12, although older individuals can get it too. It prevents cancers caused by human papillomavirus. The idea is to protect kids before they are exposed; those who are ages 15-24 account for half of all new STD infections, according to CDC.
• If you are at high risk for HIV, consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). It’s a daily medication that lowers the chance of getting HIV.
STDs are no fun, but it’s time to get beyond the fear and stigma attached to the phrase and take charge of your own health. You’ll be relieved that you did.
To make an appointment to be screened, or for free or low-cost birth control, including condoms, or for vaccines, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119.