STI's -Start Thinking Insurance

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark Cherry
  • 509th Security Forces Squadron
A few months ago as the first sergeant for the 509th Security Forces Squadron, I received a call from the public health office requesting permission to do a public health briefing on sexually transmitted infections for one of the largest squadrons on base.

I told them we were scheduling commander's calls and it would be no problem for them to attend. But, I asked them whether it was really necessary, and if so, would they keep it brief. I then gave them the good news that we have four commander's call to cover all the shifts.

Undaunted by the multiple briefings, the public health folks arrived and provided professional presentations on sensitive subjects that captivated all four audiences. They even handed out condoms.

Their information was definitely eye-opening. One thing I learned is that in addition to having a car, house or life insurance, people need to "insure" themselves to prevent sexually transmitted infections, which are both bacterial and viral.

Bacterial infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. These can be treated with antibiotics but can devastate the human body if untreated. These infections can cause sterility and tissue scaring.

Viral infections include: hepatitis A and B, genital herpes, genital warts and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Medications do exist to reduce the severity of the signs and symptoms, but because they are viruses, you're generally stuck with them for the rest of your life.

Bacterial Infections

Chlamydia is known as the "silent" disease with 75 percent of women and about 50 percent of men showing no signs and symptoms, and if there are signs and symptoms, they typically appear 1-3 weeks after exposure.

An estimated 2.8 million Americans are infected each year. That's 7,600 infections each day. Male and female signs and symptoms are usually discharge and painful/burning urination.

Women can contract pelvic inflammatory disease leading to severe permanent damage of the reproductive system if left untreated.

Gonorrhea produces similar signs and symptoms with 700,000 new infections each year. Most men will have signs and symptoms, and most females will not. Drug resistant strains are popping up at an alarming rate making it more difficult to treat this disease.

Syphilis is a genital ulcerative disease. It is highly infectious, but, treatment in its early stages can prevent permanent damage and complications.

It was thought to be under control, but within the last five years, it's been making a strong comeback.

In 2005, new infections jumped from 7,980 to 8,724. Untreated long-term complications include neurological, cardiovascular and organ damage. Death is the end result if medical intervention does not occur.

Here comes the eye opening part. In 2006, Whiteman saw 75 STI cases: 64 patients with chlamydia and 11 with gonorrhea. Of these 75 patients, six were infected with both infections at the same time.

So far this past year: Whiteman has had eight patients infected with gonorrhea, (118 per 100,000), 33 percent less than Missouri; and 67 infected with chlamydia, (985 per 100,000), 2.5 percent higher than Missouri.

The Kansas City area rates for gonorrhea and chlamydia are very high; in 2001 - 2005, cases averaged 2,400 and 3,200, respectively.

Missouri ranked 10th in the nation for gonorrhea (164 per 100,000) and chlamydia (389 per 100,000) combined in 2005. St Louis was second and Kansas City was sixth.

Viral Infections

Hepatitis A is found in the feces of people infected with the Hepatitis A Virus. Hepatitis B is found in blood and other bodily fluids of people infected with Hepatitis B Virus. Both the HAV and HBV can affect the liver through cirrhosis and scarring.

Without a liver, you can not live. Early detection and intervention are the keys for controlling this infection.

Genital herpes is spread through intimate skin to skin contact regardless if a condom is used. 45 million Americans have been infected at some point in their life; that's right, they're still infected.

Signs and symptoms, like blisters forming around the genitals or oral cavities, cause severe burning and itching, and are normally noticed about two weeks after infection.

Medications may suppress the symptoms but again, you're stuck with it.

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, and can produce cauliflower shaped bumps or a single wart in the genital area.

Visible genital warts can be removed by medications or surgery. Currently, 20 million Americans have this form.

HIV/AIDS has infected more than one million Americans with 40,000 new infections each year. HIV affects the immune system by destroying the cells that fight infections in your body. It decreases your body's ability to fight off infections such as a common cold.

If an infected individual does not take their suppression therapy, HIV can develop into AIDS. Drug suppression therapy may only extend someone's life for so long, but the end result will be death. There is no known cure. here are several ways to "Insure" yourself and prevent infection.

The best insurance is abstinence or waiting until marriage. If that doesn't work for you, then be a responsible partner and use condoms, get tested regularly with your partner, maintain monogamous relationships and avoid one night stands.

Public Health does offer free forms of the latex insurance and further education. Just stop by and ask.

(Master Sgt. Robert Roach and Tech. Sgt. David Fitch, both from the 509th Medical Group, contributed to this article.)

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