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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Linn County offers gift cards to people who get tested for sexually-transmitted infections
Syphilis, gonorrhea cases on the rise in Eastern Iowa
As the rates of some sexually-transmitted infections continue to rise, Linn County Public Health is offering $10 gift cards to anyone who gets tested April 17 to 21.
The Gazette reached out to Heather Meador, clinical branch supervisor for the public health department, to talk about why it’s so important to be tested for STIs and how testing works.
Q: Why should people get tested?
A: “Right now, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of sexually-transmitted infections nationally, in the state and in Linn County. So it’s really important people get tested. Many of these sexually-transmitted infections may not have any symptoms, but may still be causing damage and are able to be passed on to other sexual partners.
“Sexually-transmitted infections can result in complications such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. It can also disseminate to other areas of the body. It’s really important to be tested and then get treatment if that test comes back as positive.”
Q: Are STI rates higher in some populations?
A: “We do see more infections in younger individuals. People age 15 to 25 have extremely high rates of sexually-transmitted infections. We also see infections in gay and bisexual men, but we’re seeing more and more syphilis in women. We also are seeing more congenital syphilis, which is pregnant women having syphilis and passing it on to their babies, which is extremely concerning.”
Q: How do high STI rates affect the community?
A: “It can have an economic burden on a community, especially when we see cases of congenital syphilis or disseminated infections where patients need to be hospitalized or have surgical intervention. There’s also the burden on young individuals who may have infertility issues. Sexually transmitted infections are not the only reason for fertility issues, but that can be a factor.”
Q: How is STI testing done?
A: “STI testing is extremely simple. What we do here at Linn County Public Health is collect urine samples. We do finger pokes so that we can test for syphilis and HIV. We also can collect swabs from other sites that may have also been exposed. We can probably have you out the door within 45 minutes.”
Getting tested for STIs
People who should consider testing include:
- Anyone who is sexually active, regardless of sexual orientation, type of sexual activity, and sexual history
- Anyone who has had a change in their sexual partner
- Anyone who is experiencing STI symptoms
- Anyone who wants to know their status
To schedule an appointment for testing, call Linn County Public Health at (319) 892-6093. To get a gift card, while supplies last, schedule a test for April 17 to 21.
Q: If someone has an STI, how would they pay for treatment?
A: “If you go to your primary care provider, insurance should be able to help with that. If someone comes here at the health department and that test is a positive test, we can treat them. There is not additional cost for that treatment.”
Q: Why is Linn County Public Health offering gift cards?
A: “We’re offering gift cards to try to get more people to come in for testing. We have grant dollars with which we were able to purchase these gift cards. We’ve gone around to different locations within the community to purchase these gift cards, including restaurants and gas stations. We want to bring people in and we want this to be a positive experience.”
Q: What would you say to people who may be putting off testing because of the stigma around STIs?
A: “There’s no shame in being sexually active. Sexual health is part of your health care. The same way you take care of your physical health in other ways, you need to be taking care of your sexual health.”
To schedule an appointment for testing, call Linn County Public Health at (319) 892-6093.
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