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STD Awareness Month: Who is at Risk?
April is National Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month. The Public Health Division of the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency is reaching out during the month of April to provide information about STDs, risk factors and ways individuals can protect themselves.
"The topic of STDs tends to be sensitive and often difficult to discuss. However, the reality is that sexually transmitted diseases are fairly common and have affected humanity for hundreds of years," said Michael Ungeheuer, RN, MN, PHN, Public Health Deputy Director. "Nationally, STD infection rates are at an all-time high. These infections can result in long term health problems. The good news is that most STDs can be prevented and treated relatively easily. Our goal is to raise awareness, particularly for people who may not know they are at risk."
According to Ungeheuer, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common types of STDs identified among those tested in El Dorado County. In 2017, approximately 500 chlamydia and 100 gonorrhea infections were identified in the county. Studies show that young people are more likely to get an STD compared to older people, but anyone can be at risk. Risk factors that increase the chances of getting an STD include:
"While some people may show symptoms when they have STDs, others may not," said Ungeheuer. "In fact, the most common symptom of an STD is no symptom at all. The only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested."
There are more options today for STD testing than in the past. On-line and home screening kits provide convenient methods of testing. Ungeheuer cautions, however, that home collected specimens can have higher rates of false-positive results, meaning that the test may indicate a person is infected when they actually are not.
"If a home test for STDs is positive, contact your health care provider or the public health clinic to confirm the result," advised Ungeheuer. "A more traditional approach to screening is to seek services from your established health care provider or community health clinic. El Dorado County Public Health offers confidential STD screening, evaluation and treatment in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. We are also an expert resource for education and prevention specific to sexually transmitted and other communicable diseases."
The risk of getting an STD can be lessened and prevented by using barrier protection (condoms, dams) during sex, limiting the number of sexual partners, and avoiding risky behaviors such as recreational drug and excessive alcohol use, or eliminated entirely by not having sex at all, keeping in mind that STDs can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact, including oral sex.
Public health professionals generally encourage the following individuals to be tested for STDs:
For more information about STDs, including how to recognize and prevent them, visit www.std.ca.gov. For more information about El Dorado County Public Health services, including clinical services and contact information, visit www.edcgov.us/publichealth. # # #