The inspiration for my articles comes from not only my patients, but also reviewing the health awareness calendar and perusing what health issue will be highlighted during the upcoming months. I find myself wondering who chooses what topic, why this month, why these days and why not this topic? Some months are jam-packed with awareness and some months only acknowledge a few awareness topics during the month – although there a many more days in the month with no awareness.
This May and June, the calendar is booked solid with awareness activities – so many I found it hard to make a selection. Are we more aware or open to issues in the Spring, is there less clutter in our lives or do we lose some of the awareness because we have too much going on in our lives? I chose to discuss two topics that we don’t discuss openly but still go hand in hand. April was Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month. How many of you knew that?
Probably, not many because you are not worried about that ever happening to you or maybe just don’t even care. Regardless, I’m sharing a few statistics with you:
• Half of all people will have an STD/STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) at some point in their life;
• There are 19.7 million STD/STIs each year! 1:4 teens will contract a STD
• Only 1/3 of physicians routinely test for STDs
• Not all STDs are reported therefore the numbers are higher. 15% of women who are infertile have tubal damage from having had an extensive pelvic infection.
How many STDs do you know about? If we took a poll the list would be different depending on the generation you asked. Even though we don’t hear about them, doesn’t mean they have been eradicated and don’t infect people anymore. Let’s test your knowledge:
• Hepatitis B
• HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
The symptoms for these infections vary and in some instances are nonexistent. The result of these infections can be life altering and devastating. Sexually transmitted infections commonly affect ages 15-35 but it is not uncommon to find these infections in our nursing homes as well. Yeah, they still are “doing it” at that age and more so without fear and therefore no use of condoms or protection. Someone you know had one, has one or doesn’t even know they have one. How many ladies have been told that their pap smear came back ok except that it showed the presence
of a virus called HPV? This STD is on the rise as compared to others. It may not be one of those other “bad” ones on the list, but did you know that there are over 100 different strains of this virus and that more than 10 of them have been linked to cervical cancer. This STD/STI is one of those quiet ones that can sneak up on you with no warning No bells or whistles or should I say drips, discharges or bumps to let you know its time for me to see my healthcare provider. A pap smear screens for cervical cancer and although dreaded by most women, this quick and simple test saves lives.
Although the treatment in most cases is very simple and may only require antibiotics; prevention of STDs/STIs is the key. How do we prevent STDs/STIs: dare I say abstinence and risk being stoned? Since that’s not an acceptable option for many, use of a condom or barrier methods of contraception would prove to be useful. Use of condoms is not 100% since the spread of infection can be via sexual, oral or other intimate contact. The use of condoms and barrier methods have proven effective in decreasing the acquisition and spreading of STIs.
The non-use of condoms not only leads to infection but pregnancy as well. May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness Month. Here are a few statistics:
• US has the highest teen pregnancy rate
• In 2012 86,000 teens ages 15-17 gave birth
• 77% of teen pregnancies are unplanned 30% end in abortion
• Interesting statistic: 82% of teens felt that teens should not have sex.
Both of these topics require some consideration and education and prevention is the key. Teen pregnancy makes us aware of so much inadequacy with regards to our teen population. Have we failed them with education regarding prevention, complications, abstinence, or contraception? Surely with statistics like that, they don’t know enough to protect themselves from disease or pregnancy.
Loudoun and surrounding counties are plagued with, dare I say, sex trafficking which makes awareness more paramount. One person sleeps with this person unprotected who has sexual relations with that person and who has sexual relations with the next one. Women you can’t judge a book by its cover or in this case no cover.
Here’s my advice, use condoms, get tested, require your partner get tested before engaging in any activities. Many of us have teenage kids or know teenage kids; look out for signs of possible sexual activity, educate them about engaging in early sex, talk to your healthcare provider for more information. Also let’s make sure our education system provides the education needed for our young kids. For those who feel if you offer info on contraception you are encouraging them to do it, remember knowledge gives us power. We may not always exert that power but no awareness leaves us vulnerable to so much more.
Don’t let our kids know more than we do. Start the conversation, listen and be proactive. Let them know if they don’t feel free to talk to you find someone who they can. Educate yourself on these diseases and don’t be afraid to entertain the thought that there are other issues on a deeper level which causes teens to seek affection and attention.
May is also Women’s Health Awareness Month. It goes without saying every day we should be aware of our health. Our number one killer of women is heart disease. Prevention with exercise, nutritional and lifestyle changes are just the start. See a nutritionist, walk with a friend, enroll in a gym and get fit! Need help with weight loss call us to discuss our Serotonin Plus weight loss
program and watch those pounds drop off!
By Dr. Gloria Ivey-Crowe
Women Physicians of Northern Virginia
46179 West Lake Drive, Suite 350
Sterling, VA 20165