'Feel the burn: Get tested!'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kimberly Marren and Staff Sgt. Jennifer Jacobson
  • 97th Medical Group Public Health Office
Each year millions of people contract sexually transmitted infections, affecting military and civilian populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans will contract an STI in their lifetime. It is important Airmen receive the necessary education and tools to avoid becoming one of those statistics.

Most people are aware of the most notorious STI- human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. However, there are more than 25 sexually transmitted infections including syphilis, human papilloma virus, genital herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia, that can have devastating effects.

Chlamydia is the most common STI and is caused by the bacterium, chlamydia trachomatis. More than 1 million Americans are infected with chlamydia each year, although the CDC estimates the number of chlamydia infections is close to 3 million per year. Chlamydia is a treatable STI but a person can go undetected for months before symptoms appear. Contributing to the high rates of chlamydia infections are 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men experience no symptoms.

With any STI, it is important to receive prompt treatment; otherwise, lifelong complications such as sterility, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and chronic pelvic pain may occur. Symptoms of an STI include, but are not limited to; 

· abnormal vaginal or urethral discharge
· painful urination/ burning upon urination
· lower abdominal pain/ lower back pain
· nausea and/or fever
· painful intercourse
· abnormal bleeding
· pain in the genital area
· genital wart or unusual bump, lesion or sore in the genital area could all be symptoms.

The best way to avoid contracting an STI is abstinence. Abstinence means refraining from all sexual activities and is the only 100 percent effective way to ensure an STI-free life. Some tips to minimize your risk include: 

· practice monogamy (that is, only engage in sexual activities with one partner who is also monogamous)
· use a latex condom (if allergic to latex, use a polyurethane condom)
· know your partner's sexual history and current STI status
· know the signs/symptoms of STIs and get prompt treatment and
· get tested for STIs at regular intervals.

If you are interested in being tested for STIs, contact your primary care manager and make an appointment. The base public health office provides educational materials and latex condoms at no cost. For more information, contact the public health office at 481-5488 or visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.