Lincoln County Public Health Nurse: Let’s talk about safe sex

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Letís talk about safe sex

By RILEY BLACK

Letís just get the awkward out of the way: about 99 percent of adults will at some point in their life engage in sexual activity. This is a fact of our species and is a biological necessity. Because this is how our body reproduces, the urge for sex is strong and inherent. When it comes to talking about sex, as a medical professional, it doesnít matter to me who you are having it with or when, I just want to make sure you stay safe when you do it.

As the county health nurse, part of my job is in communicable disease investigation and reporting. These common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are reportable which means anyone who is diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV are by law reported to the health department. We do this because we want to ensure that you receive the treatment you need but also to educate you about how to avoid further infection. We also take this time to confidentially alert any partners that may also be infected to ensure they are treated and not transmitting to others.

This work in communicable disease investigation highlights how critically important it is for people with multiple partners to use condom protection.

The most common STDs are treatable, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. But there are other diseases such as herpes, HPV and HIV that have no cure. This means once you get it, you have it for life. But you can avoid all of this with proper condom use.

Condoms work in two ways. If used correctly, they are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Other forms of birth control also prevent pregnancy, but do not prevent infections.

It is important to know that STDs are not visible, so you cannot tell just by looking at a person if they are infectious. In fact, about 60 percent of people currently infected with an STD donít even know it themselves. This means you need to take control of your sexual health and insist that you always use condom protection with your partners because it takes just one unprotected event with an infected person to make you sick.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. At least nine out of 10 adults will be infected at some point in their life, even if they only have one partner. Although HPV is not a reportable disease, we take this infection seriously for three reasons: It is highly infectious; It is the leading cause of female reproductive cancers; and it is the leading cause of male oral cancers, even more so than tobacco.

You can reduce your chances of HPV infection with proper condom use and we also strongly recommended vaccination against HPV for all boys and girls starting at ages 11.

Other STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea can cause severe reproductive infections that if left untreated can cause infertility, eye infections, oral infections and sepsis.

Because condoms are so important for good sexual health, the Lincoln County Health Department has partnered with several local bars to promote their use by displaying ďFree Condom Bowls.Ē We thank the Pastime Bar, the Mint Bar and the VFW for partnering in this important health endeavor. If your establishment wants to join in this campaign, please contact us.

We welcome anyone to use these products and if they have questions about how to use condoms properly, to call the Health Department. We can also send you a discrete, free condom care package in the mail or you can stop in anytime during business hours and collect from our free condom supply.

With this information, there really isnít any excuse not to use condoms. Sure, I always get the excuse that they are uncomfortable but, hey, so is chlamydia.

For more information about condoms, STDs or your sexual health, please call the county health nurse at 406-283-2447.

If you suspect you may have an STD or if you are sexually active and have not been tested for STDs in the past six months, we advise you call your primary care provider and get tested right away.

Riley Black is public health nurse for Lincoln County.

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