February 7, 2013
February is National Condom Month and, according to Lyyti Dudczyk, program manager of STD/HIV services at the Will County Health Department in Illinois, a good time to address the issue that teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 25 are the fastest growing demographic for contracting sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. CDC statistics show that while teenage pregnancy remains problematic, it has been steadily declining throughout the past decade; STD diagnoses among this age group, however, continue to rise. During 2011, individuals aged 15 to 24 made up 73 percent of all gonorrhea cases and 75 percent of chlamydia cases in Will County.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV are reportable diseases in Illinois, but other STDs, such as herpes and human papillomavirus, are common and can be prevented through practicing safe sex. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable infections, explains Dudczyk, but if left untreated could lead to complications, especially for women. The program manager goes on to stress the importance of treating the sexual partners of patients diagnosed with an STD. In the state of Illinois, expedited partner therapy allows a qualified healthcare provider to write prescriptions for a patient's partner(s) when the patient is diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea, without the partner actually having to see the physician.
Charlie Palmer, a prevention specialist at Regional Care Association, stresses the importance of testing, since HIV and many other STDs can be asymptomatic. The nonprofit provides services to HIV-positive individuals and educates the public on HIV awareness and prevention programs in the community. Palmer also explains that while testing is important, lessening risk through condom use and abstinence lessens the risk of exposure. The following locations offer testing as well as free condoms and other safe sex supplies: Will County Health Department Community Health Center, Regional Care Association (HIV testing only), Aunt Martha's Health Centers, and Planned Parenthood.