By Tracy McCallum, Youth Intervention Counselor, Peer Advocate/HIV Services
In the spirit of STD Awareness Month, Whittier Street Health Center encourages our patients and community residents to consider their sexual health. Having good sexual health means feeling physically and emotionally safe and comfortable with your sexual life. It’s also important in preventing STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, genital warts, “trich”, and HIV.
STDs cost the U.S. health care system about $17 billion to treat every year. Many young Americans aged 15 to 24 have STDs—of the estimated 20 million new infections reported every year, half occurs among that age group! A big problem is that a lot of Americans don’t get screened for infections and are unaware that they may have an STD. And many states have inadequate sex education standards, or bar school districts from teaching anything other than abstinence education (Centers for Disease Control).
If undetected and untreated, STDs can cause discomfort and permanent damage to your body. We believe in empowering our community with education about all the things that can affect their health and well-being. Here is some information for taking control of your sexual health:
- What are the rates of infection in our community?
Here in Boson, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are the most prevalent STDs. In 2012, the chlamydia rates were 779.2 new cases per 100,000 residents; gonorrhea was at 133.0; and syphilis was 31.8.
The rate for new HIV cases was 31.8 in 2011, and the incidence is higher for African Americans and Hispanic residents.
Source: Boston Public Health Commission, 2014.
- What services does Whittier offer to raise awareness about STDs?
Whittier works to reduce the burden of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis C, and other STDs in our communities by providing education to help residents reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Our team seeks to reduce health disparities linked to STDs.
We have multiple Street Outreach teams, including an Education & Prevention teams that target the high risk populations and offer free condoms, testing, and information. One of these teams is Project ME, which has a drop-in center here at Whittier for testing and consultation.
Some outreach team members go to other organizations such as B.A.T.A and Madison Vocational Technical High School to share information about a program we implement called VOICES—this is about negotiating safe condom use with their partner.
On the medical side, Whittier also offers a wide range of services such as Urgent Care, where the client can be tested for STDs, and the team known as “Respect” will offer counseling and offer suggestions on how to stay safer.
- What is the best way to avoid STDs?
The best way to avoid STDs is to use protection! Men can using latex condoms. For those who are allergic to latex, their partner can use polyurethane condoms (female condoms).
Abstinence is another option – talk to your partner! Respecting each other is key to good sexual health in your relationship.
It is our passion, hope, and desire to educate our community on the importance of safer sex practices. Please call us at 617-989-3146 if you want to come in for an appointment (which you can also do online) or would like to meet with one of our outreach team members.