OSDH Encourages Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing
OKLAHOMA CITY – With proper testing and treatment, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be cured, however, if left untreated, they can cause severe and lifelong health problems.
STI awareness week is April 9-15 and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) urges Oklahomans to take control when it comes to their sexual health.
Oklahoma regularly ranks in the top ten for the rate of STIs, including syphilis and HIV.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages people to get tested regularly, talk to their healthcare provider about sexual health issues and practice safe sex to reduce the spread of disease.
“Testing for STIs should be a part of an annual physical wellness exam, as sexual health affects your overall health and should be discussed with healthcare providers,” said Terrainia Harris, director for Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service with OSDH.
In addition, confidential testing for sexually transmitted infections can be performed at any county health department (CHD). Other resources, in relation to preventing STIs, are available at CHDs or can be ordered at endinghivoklahoma.org.
“These infections are easy to treat if they are identified early” Harris said, “The problem is when things like syphilis go untreated, they can cause major problems like blindness, deafness, and neurological damage. In pregnant females, it’s even worse because it can be passed on to the baby and can result in stillbirth or low birth weight, bone deformities, blindness, deafness and neurological damage to the baby too.”
Some STIs are treatable if identified early, helping to prevent severe health problems. However, there is no cure for some infections, including HIV and herpes. Current medications offer people living with HIV and herpes the chance to live long, healthy lives.
“HIV medications have come a long way, and can decrease the amount of virus in the bloodstream to undetectable levels,” Harris said. “That means it can’t be transmitted through sexual contact.”
The CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, and at least once a year if a person partakes in activities that might increase their risk. People who test regularly are aware of their HIV status and can access HIV treatment and care more quickly and remain healthy for many years and possibly their entire life.
Appointments for free, confidential STI testing can be made through a local county health department. Click here to find a list of local CHDs.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) protects and improves public health through its system of local health services and strategies focused on preventing disease. OSDH provides technical support and guidance to 68 county health departments in Oklahoma, as well as guidance and consultation to the two independent city-county health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Learn more at Oklahoma.gov/health.