How do I know if I’ve got something? That can be tricky sometimes! A burning sensation when urinating; a white yellow or green discharge from the penis; painful or swollen testicles; rectal pain, discharge or bleeding; single or multiple sores on your genitals, rectum, mouth, or throat; skin rashes; or flu-like symptoms can all indicate a possible STI. On top of that both gonorrhea and chlamydia may have no symptoms at all. If you have any of the above symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor. If you are sexually active with multiple partners, get screened regularly.
What if I ignore it? Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to significant problems, including infertility in both men and women. Untreated syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system or to the eye leading to headache, dementia, or blindness. Having an active gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis infection can increase the risk of becoming infected by HIV. If left untreated, HIV infection leads to AIDS and can be fatal. The good news is there is treatment to cure gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, and to manage HIV.
How can I reduce my risk? Obviously, abstinence. Okay, on to the real world. Use a condom for all sexual encounters – – anal, oral or vaginal. Having a single partner reduces the risk. Regular screening if you are sexually active with multiple partners helps to keep things from spreading too far. If you have symptoms, get treatment.
How can I get screened? Call your primary care doctor. Call your health department. At the health department you will find free, rapid HIV testing, referrals for free STI screening for folks age 20 years and younger, and referrals for free treatment for syphilis.
Are you looking for a HIV test but can’t make it to the health department? Folks from the health department will be at the Health Fair at Frederick Community College on April 27th to provide HIV testing.
Want more information? Here are some useful phone numbers:
• Allegany County Health Department: 301-759-5125
• Garrett County Health Department: 301-334-7692
• Frederick County Health Department: 301-600-3342
• Washington County Health Department: 240-313-3296.
Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for eight years.