Archive for category STD

Silence Equaled Death

The stats are incredibly depressing. The one that I keep seeing this week is even more depressing – 3 out of 4 Americans with HIV don’t have their infections under control. It gets worse.

About 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US but about 240,000 don’t know they are infected. Each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. Getting an HIV test is the first step to finding out if you have HIV and getting medical care. Without medical care, HIV leads to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and early death.

Apparently, millions of sexually active Americans have never even had an HIV test. There’s no excuse for that.

At least for those of us with insurance, HIV isn’t a death sentence, not anymore. But if you don’t even know you’re infected, it can become one incredibly quickly.

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You Go, Alicia Martinez! Getting the Safe Sex Message to People Who Need It

I read in this morning’s Trib about a Midvale mom who learned about STDs and set out to make sure people got the safe sex message and the tools to implement.  She goes to nightclubs and is putting herself out there and talking about this stuff.

Martinez is a volunteer with the Utah Department of Health, which is offering free HIV tests and counseling at the back of the club. On a table at the entrance, the department displays free “safe sex kits” — packages of condoms decorated with sombreros.

I’m not sure about  the sombreros but if it works, it works.  You wanna know something?  She’s doing something incredibly important and it may mean some awkward and embarrassing moments but it’s worth it to keep people whole.  I’m glad the Trib spotlighted this story.

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Time for a Mature Public Discussion of Sex Education

Rep. Lynn Hemingway is proposing a bill that would create a two-track system of sex education in Utah schools – the first track the current “keep your knees together and pray” abstinence only and a new track of comprehensive sex education.

The problem – the major obstacle to meaningful reform of Utah sex education – is the bizarre dedication of so many Utahns to the notion that we have to teach abstinence. Consider this editorial from The Spectrum, published in St. George: Read the rest of this entry »

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Utah Legislators Discuss Non-Existent Sex Education Bill – and get fed misinformation and pass a ludicrous motion

The Keystone Kops were a silent film series about a group of bumbling, incompetent police officers who were more likely to blow up the police station than arrest criminals. They were apparently the inspiration for yesterday’s hearing on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake.

Lawmakers spent two hours debating sex education in schools Wednesday despite the fact that they didn’t have a new bill to debate.

Chris Buttars demonstrating his usual insight said on the record he didn’t know the bill was not ready and decided to hold the hearing anyway. Why? Well, he brought in Miriam Grossman – on his own dime – to argue against medically accurate, effective sexuality education.

Grossman spent about a half hour talking about how not enough scientific facts are included in sex education and how the national Planned Parenthood promotes what she considers to be high-risk sexual behavior among teens.

“The primary goals of these organizations is not to fight disease,” Grossman said. “It is to create a society that tolerates, indeed celebrates, any kind of sexual activity.”

Trust me, it gets better:

Ultimately, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, proposed a motion to urge the legislature “to consider any person or organizations that promotes, recommends or teaches high-risk sexual behavior, Web sites, examples or talks” as not appropriate in public schools.

I have to be honest about my extreme frustration here – it’s not just that our legislators are by all appearances completely uninformed about sexuality education, how it works and what kinds of programs work, but they seem proud of their ignorance and wish to advertise it to the world.

Here’s the thing: abstinence only education programs do not produce behavioral changes in adolescents. Read the rest of this entry »


Have you been tested for STDs?

Relax, I’m not asking for confessions. This is a very personal subject and I really don’t want anyone to publicly discuss their own health record. I just want you to think about it and decide if testing is for you.

I’m bringing this up because the Utah Board of Education recently approved a change to school curriculum to include teaching kids about sexually transmitted diseases and encouraging them to get tested if they are sexually active.

It’s good that the state has grown up enough to admit that teenagers are engaging in sex, and that they need to be educated about dangerous diseases they might be exposed to. Unfortunately, teachers are forbidden to teach kids how to prevent another consequence of sex: pregnancy.

Contraception is still a taboo subject, although if we connect the dots we’ll see that 1)kids have sex, 2) having sex causes pregnancy, 3) kids having sex should know how to prevent pregnancy, 4) without education and access to birth control, teenagers are going to become parents. And yet, otherwise intelligent people can still argue against contraception education.

But educating kids about STDs is an important step forward and will hopefully help to reduce the alarming and increasing rate of reported diseases in Utah.

Here are some facts you may not know.

In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, 6,500 Utahns were infected with STDs, which included 1,396 cases of chlamydia among 15- to 19-year olds, according to the Utah Department of Health. While chlamydia rates are growing, the incidence of HIV and gonorrhea is also on the rise. In Salt Lake County in 2008, HIV infection was up 32 percent from the previous year; gonorrhea cases increased more than 280 percent.

You can get much more information at the Utah Department of Health website including additional statistics, some very frank information about specific STDs, and locations where you can go to get tested.

The one question I searched for and didn’t get a satisfactory answer to is who should be tested. The UDOH site says everyone who is sexually active should be. That’s practically the entire adult population. Remember what they say: when you have sex with someone, you’re also having sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with. So, yes, probably all adults should be tested, even if they are currently in a monogamous relationship.

If you are symptom-free you might still be infected and be infecting your partner without knowing. I realize it can be intimidating and embarrassing to ask your doctor for the tests, but it’s the only way to be sure.

If you haven’t been tested, now is as good a time as any to get that taken care of. Seriously, just do it. It’s the grownup, responsible thing to do.

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