Illinois: Health Department Seeks to Educate Adolescents About STDs
April 8, 2010
Health officials are working to combat STDs in west-central Illinois through a variety of outreaches, including education, screening, and testing.
Jacquie Barringer, communicable-disease coordinator at the Morgan County Health Department, said a key department focus during spring is educating students. "March, April, and May are the big months we do the adolescent health program," she said. "It's a three-day program for sixth-graders. It talks about changes of puberty, conception. Overall, it's an abstinence program. It talks about decision-making and encourages them to communicate and talk to their parents."
STDs, including HIV/AIDS, are discussed in more detail at the high school level, said Barringer. The department also has a family planning clinic that provides chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings for females. The STD clinic, however, no longer provides general screenings for the diseases: It was shut down 18 months ago.
Charlie Rabins, chief of the STD section at the state Department of Public Health, said a recently introduced texting service, in which cell phone users can find out the nearest place to get tested, has "proved promising." "It's pretty new, it's only been in the last year or two where people are using services like this," he said.
Because many STDs have no symptoms in the early stages, it is important that sexually active persons talk with their health care provider and get tested, health officials say.
"I think STDs are sort of a silent epidemic," said Rabins. "Despite all the media issues, very rarely do you ever see people talking about sexually transmitted infections. There's a stigma there."
04.06.2010; Cody Bozarth
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