STI screening

What do you think of when you think about a potential partner?
“N-i-c-e! Who’s that one with.....?“ and, after conversation, “C-l-e-v-e-r!  I can’t wait to spend some alone time with him.“  And both being here in the metropolis of Champaign-Urbana maybe you are looking for someone to show you around the secrets of the Morrow Plots, tell you the relative microprocessing speed of Deep Blue, and explain why Arimaa is still epic. However, as a gyno, I’m mainly concerned about sexual health, as well as intellectual health. And frankly, without both, nope, there’s no staying together.
So, before you get that alone time with your partner and get out a large magnifying glass to examine your relationship and where it is going, there should be a frank discussion about sexual histories and sexual health. Although you want to trust the person that you are spending time with, you need to consider the fact that many people aren’t completely open and honest about their sex lives. Relationships shouldn’t be a prix fixe menu; we should have choices, and realistically know about what we are being exposed to potentially. When it comes to STDs, you or your partner may both appear to be symptom free and believe yourselves to be so. So, here are some heartwarming statistics straight from the CDC: only 1 out of 10 individuals infected with Herpes has been formally diagnosed and know they are infected, and only 25% of all Chlamydia carriers have any symptoms at all. Unless you both get tested, you may never know if one of you has an STD. The rate of STDs is climbing; in the U.S. alone, there are 40 million Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections and over 1 million Chlamydia Trachomatis infections. Did you know that, in 2008 (most recent year for available state statistics), the State of Illinois ranked 8th in the United States for the rate of Gonorrhea infections? According to the CDC, our state reported 20,674 Gonorrhea cases resulting in a rate of 160.9 per 100,000, well above the national average rate of 111.6. Illinois also ranked 9th out of all states for rate of infection for Chlamydia, beating out California, which has almost 3 times the population! Sun Tzu, a famous warrior, taught me this gyno perspective: “Know thy enemy.“ Here are the 2008 statistics for Champaign County and nearby/comparable counties as reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health:
Rate per 100,000
County           Population           STD Type                   Cases Reported           Population
Champaign 195,671 Chlamydia 1259 700.7
  • Gonorrhea 317 176.4
  • Primary & Secondary Syphilis 5 2.8
  • HIV                             21
McLean 167,699 Chlamydia 665 442.1
  • Gonorrhea 212 140.9
  • Primary & Secondary Syphilis 1 0.7
  • HIV                             7
Macon 108,204 Chlamydia 708 617.2
  • Gonorrhea 318 277.2
  • Primary & Secondary Syphilis 2 1.7
  • HIV                             4
Vermillion 80,067 Chlamydia 496 591.0
  • Gonorrhea 218 259.8
  • Primary & Secondary Syphilis 0 0
  • HIV                             8
These figures show us that sexual contact is potentially risky, that sex can be safer, and that it is extremely important for everyone to take control of his or her sexual health. Here are some disturbing results from a new study by Dr. Heather Royer of the University of Wisconsin, Madison: 41% of women aged 18–24 assumed that STD testing includes screening for all STDs; 81% of participants would rather not go to their family doctor for STD testing, and many of these women assumed that they were being tested for STDs when their health care provider performed a Pap smear.
Here’s the issue, if you thought you were given a clean bill of health just because you were told you ‘passed your pap test’, but in fact were never tested, you could unwittingly be part of this undying epidemic.
The best advice for couples: test before any sexual contact or as soon as possible after you start to have sex. Exactly when to test is a discussion you may want to tackle with your own health care provider. Repeat testing at a later time is advised as well because you won’t necessarily test positive the morning after; that is a project for a couple of weeks later. For HIV, you might need a test a few weeks later just to be sure.
According to the CDC, sexually active women, age 25 or older, should be tested for Chlamydia every year, and sexually active men and women who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship should get annual HIV testing, a Hepatitis B vaccination, and Chlamydia testing as recommended by their healthcare provider. All men who have sex with men should get vaccinations for Hepatitis A & B along with annual tests for HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. While female to female transmission is less likely, female bisexuality is common, and therefore infections introduced into the relationship are so common to make the recommendations applicable to this population as well. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends getting an HIV test every time you have a new partner. Of course, talk candidly to your doctor about your sexual history, signs, and symptoms, so you can both decide on the best course of action for you. Remember, always be specific in all your requests to your doctor and ask tons of questions to be sure you are getting the proper care and treatment.
You have several alternatives for STD testing sites in Champaign County:
  1. Champaign Urbana Public Health District, Champaign Office / http://www.c-uphd.org/std-clinic.html / 201 W. Kenyon Rd., Champaign         Hours: Monday 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. (Men’s clinic) / (217) 239-7827         Tuesday 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. / Thursdays 9:00 am - 11 a.m. and 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.  Cost: Determined at visit, but no one will be refused services because of inability to pay. Additional services may incur additional costs. Blood test for genital herpes (for people with no symptoms) = $7
  2. Frances Nelson Health Center / 1306 Carver Drive, Champaign         Hours:  Mon, Wed, Fri 9:00am-5:00pm / (217) 356-1558                             Tuesday and Thursday 1:00pm-8:30pm / Cost: Determined at visit and based on income/insurance/Medicaid.
  3. Women’s Health Practice / 2125 S. Neil Street, Champaign         Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm / (217) 356-3736 / Cost: Most major health insurance accepted.  See if they are running a clinical trial; you may qualify for free testing. (Full disclosure: Dr. Trupin runs Women’s Health Practice)
  4. Planned Parenthood / 302 E. Stoughton Street, Champaign / Call 217-359-8022 or visit http://www.ppil.org/ to schedule an appointment (Ed. note: We apologize for the oversight, per Beth’s comment below.)
  5. Schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN or your general practice doctor. Specifically ask for testing and specify what tests are needed / Cost: Dependent upon your physician and health insurance accepted.
  6. Anonymous STD Testing Centers Do a search on the internet for these centers / Cost: Dependent on the company / For more information and specific disease state questions: American Social Health Association / http://www.ashastd.org/
Whether you are in a new or established relationship, everyone knows that communication, honesty, and trust are as key to keeping a relationship going as that perfect chili recipe, a re-enactment of Kasparov’s last win against Deep Blue, or love of the Illini. There is no better way to show your commitment than for you and your partner to talk about sex, talk about your future sex, and be screened! For then you will truly complete the teaching of Sun Tzu, who said “know thy enemy,“ for the wisdom is not complete until you, “know thyself.“
So, instead of lunch and a movie, make it lunch and a screening…for STDs!
L
First posted in Culture section of Smile Politely, 5/26/2010 

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