January 27, 2011
Health officials are recommending a high school-based STD prevention intervention in the Manchester area that would include free screenings. The board of education was briefed on the program and was hearing a presentation at its Monday meeting in Lincoln Center.
"We have been very concerned about the numbers [of STD cases] in the young population," said Maryann Cherniak Lexius, Manchester's health director. The town recorded 250 chlamydia cases in 2009, up from 199 diagnoses in 2005, and Cherniak Lexius said her office is focused on how to stop local STD increases.
Tenth-graders last spring participated in a pilot program presented in collaboration with the state Department of Health's STD Control Program. The one-period lesson included graphic slides and the message of abstinence "as the only true prevention," Cherniak Lexius said. Parents can elect not to have their child participate in the session.
Manchester health officials want to continue the pilot program and begin providing confidential, non-invasive testing in Manchester High School as well as other local high schools. Testing in the school nurse's office would be during specific periods, and walk-in testing would be available with a state health professional. Under state law, parental consent is not needed for the screenings, Cherniak Lexius said.
"As health educators and health promoters, anything we can do to remove barriers for students to access health care is wise," said Suzanne Valade, Manchester's coordinator of school health services.
Town health officials would like to offer the program to all local high school students, said Cherniak Lexius.