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Examining those on the frontline of the STD battle

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The fight against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV is just that - a battle between community health officials and a public that does not understand the importance of STD testing services and practicing safer sex. Recently, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported on some of the people in Georgia who are on the frontlines of this battle, and the struggle they have each day to get the message of treatment and prevention out to all sexually active individuals in the state.

The news source spoke to Veronica Hartwell, program administrator with the Fulton County Health and Wellness Department, who explained that at the Aldredge Health Center in downtown Georgia, she and her colleagues are seeing 16,000 STD cases a year. She added that although this may seem like they are treating many individuals, the health department merely "has the tiger by the tail," when it comes to addressing the major STD problem in the state.

Losing the war
According to Hartwell, one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare community is that the internet has presented people with so many ways to meet up for sex that it's becoming difficult to keep up. Furthermore, teens are becoming sexually active earlier and having more partners than they were in the past decades, which has also led to a rise in STD rates. While health officials try to do their best to treat people who are found to have an STD, it's a complicated issue.

Tisa Bright, nursing supervisor at the Aldredge Health Center, explained that treating STDs is not just about addressing physical concerns, but emotional problems as well.

"An STD is an emotional issue and often patients are upset," Bright told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "They get this infection from an intimate act and often from someone with whom they are in relationship. They may have thought they were the only partner. The news can be very hard. You have to have compassion and a listening ear, because you're going to hear a whole lot of other stuff besides what led to the STDs."

Along with treating STDs, Bright also encourages people to use condoms during all sexual acts and educates them on signs to look for in their partner that he or she may have an STD. Hartwell added that it's incredibly important for health officials to talk to young people about abstinence and self-respect, as well as making better choices so that they can keep themselves healthy.

STDs and the internet
As Hartwell pointed out, the rise of the internet has led to the ability to arrange for casual sexual hook-ups very easily. A 2001 article published by Emergency Medical News called "From Anecdote to Pattern: The Risk of STDs and the Internet" stated that the internet is filled with misinformation about sex and the risks involved. Researchers found that people who seek out sex online have a higher risk of contacting an STD or HIV than those who do not, and that there needs to be more strategies to promote STD prevention over the internet.

People need to remember that no matter how well they think they know somebody, they can never be fully sure that their partners' sexual histories are clean. Because of this, it's important for people to always wear a condom when engaging in all forms of sexual activity, and get tested for STDs regularly before they potentially pass one on to others. Often, STDs have no symptoms, so even if people feel completely healthy, they could still have a sexual infection that can be transmitted to their partners. Getting tested is fast and easy, so it's always better to be safe than sorry.

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