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STD Numbers Escalating for Will County 14- to 24-Year-Olds

Condoms and other safe sex practices are more important than ever, local experts say.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenage pregnancy remains a problem, but has been steadily declining for the past 10 years. The prevalence of STDs however, is on the rise.

“We always state in our public presentations that abstinence is the true and only way to prevent getting an STD. However we do have to talk about the reality of it,” said Lyyti Dudczyk, program manager of STD/HIV Services at the Will County Health Department.

Since February is National Condom Month, it seems like a good time to address the problem.

Teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 25 are the fastest growing group of people contracting STDs.

In 2011, 15- to 24-year-olds accounted for 73 percent of all gonorrhea cases and 75 percent of chlamydia cases in Will County.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV are the diseases that must be reported in Illinois, but there are many others out there, such as herpes and HPV, that are also common and can be prevented by practicing safe sex.

Dudczyk said chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable infections. It's when infections go untreated or happen on a recurrent basis that they can lead to future complications, such as like infertility, especially for women.

“Treating the partners is the key once an STD has been identified," Dudczyk said. "The partner or partners need to be treated otherwise we can’t stop the cycle."

In Illinois, expedited partner therapy or EPT, allows a qualified healthcare provider to write a prescription for a patient’s partner/partners in cases of chlamydia or gonorrhea, without the partner actually seeing a physician.

“Most STDs have stigmas associated with them, but HIV is really on top of the list,” said Charlie Palmer, a prevention specialist at Regional Care Association.

Regional Care Association is a non-profit organization that provides services for people who are HIV positive and educates the public on HIV awareness and prevention programs in the community.

“People become infected with HIV, which is the virus, and AIDS is what happens once the immune system is damaged,” Palmer said.

HIV as well as other STDs can be asymptomatic, which means there are no immediate physical signs of infection. It’s one of the reasons that testing is so important, he said.

“We get a lot of support from the community (and) that encourages more people to test," Palmer said. “Probably better than 20 percent of the people we test, within a 6-month period, they’re talking about it and getting their friends to test.”

At Regional Care’s facility, an initial screening can determine if someone is HIV-negative in about 15 minutes.

You can lessen the exposure to HIV with abstinence, condom use or other protective barriers.

There are condoms made for both men and women. Most are made from latex, but some use synthetic materials designed for people with sensitivity or allergies to latex.

“It's not a simple as, ‘Here's a condom -- put it on.' I tell people to protect themselves whether they are gay, straight, bi, lesbian – it doesn’t matter – anyone who is having any kind of sexual relations has to protect themselves,” said Gini Lester, a registered nurse and president of Community Alliance and Action Network in Joliet.

“(The network) is one of the few places that provides safer sex items, like dental dams and protective barriers for lesbians.”

Dental dams are used to prevent the transmission of disease during female oral sex. Condoms can also be used for this purpose for males.

Lester's agency is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support services to the LGBTQ -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and "questioning" (sometimes identified as "queer") -- community.

Everyone should know the status of their sexual health. STD/HIV testing can be done through your regular physician or at any of the following local organizations.

The above locations also provide free condoms and other safe sex supplies.

Editor's Note: The videos attached to this post could contain content that some would consider unsuitable for young children.

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Maori Tuakana February 07, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Our parents never really knew what was going on when we (my neighborhood friends) were kids. They knew that the dangers were out there, & with that alone they taught us to make the right decisions. You were taught to respect elders, authority, & most importantly yourself. That doesn't exist anymore, & it's sad to see how kids are allowed to act like today. Parents of today work way too much, & kids are left alone much younger than in times past.
Buford Pusser February 07, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Wait until birth control under Obamacare is given to children as young as 10 years old without a parents permission and knowledge and STD's will sky rocket.
Maori Tuakana February 07, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Under "Anycare", will give you the same results. If parents feel it's OK to leave their 10-12 year, alone because they are "responsible", you are opening doors that should stay shut. Kids are curious, & they have a higher chance of falling prey to what could later be called an epidemic. Keep an eye on your kids, so that they can keep an eye on us when we get too old.
susan l. crosier February 08, 2013 at 03:47 PM
taking birth control does not increase the incidence of STD's. Do your research if you disagree, but inflamitory comments are not helpful
Buford Pusser February 09, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Susan by giving young children free birth control it will allow more to spread their wings and thus more sex and more STD's.

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