With April being National STD Awareness Month, an official from a local health clinic is urging South Carolinians, particularly those in the tri-county region of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, to get STD screenings.
This year’s theme for National STD Awareness Month is “Treat Me Right.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the theme represents an opportunity for providers to ensure they have the tools needed to properly detect and treat infections.
It also encourages patients to learn about STDs and prevention while empowering them to ask their provider what they can do and how they can work together to stay safe and healthy.
Shiheda Furse, a community manager at HopeHealth, which provides outpatient treatment and care for people with HIV/AIDS in the tri-county region, said, “In observance of STD Awareness Month, HopeHealth encourages individuals to seek services within our Person Health Clinic that includes STD screenings and free HIV and Hepatitis C screenings”
Furse said it is important for individuals to talk to their health care providers about sexual health even though it can be uncomfortable.
"It's very important that the conversation happens to decrease new STD infections, educate, and support individuals in managing their health," she said, particularly since cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are at an all-time high.
"Left untreated, STDs can cause increased risk of HIV transmission, long-term pelvic and/or abdominal pain, and inability to get pregnant or pregnancy complications.
"When you visit your healthcare provider, you should be open and honest as it relates to sexual behavior, current prevention measures, and sexual orientation. Seek a health care provider who is non-judgmental, respectful, explains things simply, screens and treats all STDs and refers to another specialist if needed," Furse said, noting that testing is the only way to know if you have an STD.
Furse said Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties have high rates of STD diagnoses.
"It’s very important to include all STDs/STIs, HIV and Hepatitis C in your routine testing with your healthcare provider. Testing is knowledge, testing is powerful," she said.
Furse said anyone who’s ever been diagnosed with an STD is at great risk for contracting HIV through anal, vaginal and oral sex.
According to SCDHEC's Surveillance Report, through December 2017 the Low Country Public Health Region reported a total of 3,786 HIV/AIDS cases, with a rate of 771 cases per 100,000 people.
SCDHEC’s Low Country Public Health Region includes Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, along with the counties of Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper.
Orangeburg County’s rate is 506 cases per 100,000; Bamberg County has a rate of 107 cases per 100,000; and Calhoun County has roughly 38 cases per 100,000.
The Low Country Public Health Region reported a total of 7,228 chlamydia cases, with a rate of 1,472 cases per 100,000 people. Orangeburg County's rate is 962 chlamydia cases per 100,000; Bamberg County has a rate of 129 cases per 100,000; and Calhoun County has 82 cases per 100,000.
The region reported a total of 2,323 gonorrhea cases, with a rate of 473 per 100,000 people. Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties’ rates were 340, 37 and 29 per 100,000 respectively.
There was a total of 267 reported cases for the region of syphilis, with a rate of 54 cases per 100,000 people. Orangeburg County’s rate is 24 cases per 100,000. Bamberg County's rate is 3 cases per 100,000. No totals were reported for Calhoun County.
For more information on the testing being conducted at the HopeHealth office at 1857 Joe S. Jeffords Highway in Orangeburg, call 803-535-2272. Clinic hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m . Monday and Wednesday.
For more information about STDs and sites that provide screenings, call DHEC’s STD/HIV Hotline at 1-800-322-2437, or visit DHEC’s website at www.scdhec.gov/stdhiv.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD
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