The sexually transmitted infection rate in Linn County has been rising over the past few years, especially among older teenagers and young adults.
STIs can cause harmful, irreversible and costly health complications. Since the majority of STIs are asymptomatic, most people won’t know they have been infected. Fortunately, STIs can be prevented and controlled.
Effective strategies for individuals to reduce their own STI risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
• Abstinence. This is the most reliable way to avoid infection.
• Vaccinations. Some STIs can be prevented through immunization.
• Mutual monogamy.
• Reduced number of sex partners.
• Condoms. Correct and consistent use of condoms is highly effective in reducing STI transmission.
• Getting tested for STIs.
There are other strategies we know help control and prevent STIs. These include:
• Group-based comprehensive risk reduction interventions for adolescents. Also known as comprehensive sexual health education, these programs have been proven effective at preventing STIs (including HIV) and teen pregnancy. These programs are recommended by The Community Guide, a credible resource for evidence-based practices. There are trained sexual health educators in Linn County that can provide these programs to schools and other organizations.
• Parents talking to their kids about sex and relationships. Studies have found that teens who have talked about sex and relationships with their parents are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
• Access to STI testing and contraceptive services. Linn County is fortunate to have many organizations that provide STI testing and contraceptive services.
There is some good news related to sexual health: the teen birthrate in Linn County has decreased by 33 percent from 2009 to 2012. Linn County’s teen birthrate in 2012 was 20.6 births per 1,000 females between 15 and 19 years old, which is the lowest rate in the 11 year observation period. The teen birthrate nationally has been falling over the past two decades.
The rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infection in Linn County rose 22 percent from 2000 to 2013. This rate is higher than the state average.
Linn County Public Health partners organizations and individuals to address the rising STI rates, including the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson Counties. SHA and LCPH work with health care providers and neighborhood groups to address specific concerns and strategies. LCPH provides walk-in hours for testing and helps ensure there are free condoms available communitywide. By working together to implement evidence-based strategies (actions that have been proven to be effective), the STI rate in Linn County can be lowered.
For a list of sexual health resources in Linn and Johnson Counties, visit http://bit.ly/sexualhealthlinnjohnson.
• Pramod Dwivedi is health director at Linn County Public Health. Katie Jones is a health education specialist with Linn County Health. Comments: (319) 892-6000; firstname.lastname@example.org