Sexually transmitted disease clinic tests both teens, parents

Margaret Rogers-Meagher, a community health nurse for Schenectady County Public Health Services, is

Margaret Rogers-Meagher, a community health nurse for Schenectady County Public Health Services, is encouraged that more parents are coming to the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic to be tested with their teenagers.

“They are setting a good example,” said Rogers-Meagher. “They are saying things to me like, ‘I’m being tested with my son or daughter because I’m trying to show them how important it is.’ ”

The Schenectady County Public Health Services holds a sexually transmitted disease clinic from 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday at 600 Franklin St., suite 104-106.

Confidential process

All testing and treatment is confidential. Treatment is provided either directly, or by prescription. If treatment cannot be provided at the clinic, a referral and/or prescription is given. All clients are counseled in behavioral risk reduction methods.

For more info

– Contact Margaret Rogers-Meagher, R.N. or Glynnis Hunt, R.N. at Schenectady County Public Health Services, 107 Nott Terrace, Suite 307, Schenectady.

– The Schenectady County Public Health Services holds a sexually transmitted disease clinic from 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday at 600 Franklin St., suite 104-106.

The clinic is free for Schenectady County residents, but donations are accepted. No appointments are necessary, but people are asked to arrive at the beginning of the clinic.

While sex is a tough subject for parents to discuss with teens, as a parent, you are your teen’s first and most powerful teacher by what you say and what you do.

“Our main focus is to prevent illness and certainly to promote health,” said Rogers-Meagher.

The truth is that sexually transmitted diseases (also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are an enormous problem in the United States, especially for adolescents and young adults.

According to the American Social Health Association, each year, one of every four sexually active teens will get a sexually transmitted infection. By age 25, half of all youth will have acquired one or more infections. The number of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases is more than 9 million people under the age of 25 each year.

“One of the things I don’t think the general population is aware of is that these diseases are occurring among the younger population,” said Rogers-Meagher, who is available to speak to the community about teens and STDs.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics, almost half of the cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are among young people ages 15 to 24. So it’s a major health problem,” she said.

It’s important to remember that many STDs do not have noticeable symptoms. So people should get tested regularly, said Glynnis S. Hunt, public health education coordinator for Schenectady County Public Health Services, who works at the STD clinic with Rogers-Meagher.

Diseases, symptoms

Some of the most common diseases and their symptoms are:

Genital herpes: Itching, tingling or burning sensation in the genitals, fluid-filled blisters on genitals.

Chlamydia: Usually has no symptoms; when it does, pain during intercourse for females and clear, watery discharge for males.

Gonorrhea: Cloudy vaginal discharge and vaginal itching for females, yellowish discharge for males, painful urination.

Syphilis: Sores on genitals, mouth and/or anus, rash, fever, sore throat.

Genital warts or Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Cauliflower-like growths in clusters on genitals or anus.

HIV/AIDS: Night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, headaches.

Hunt said many of these diseases go undiagnosed because many teenagers are not accessing health services as either they don’t know how to, or they are afraid to talk to their parents or other adults about them.

“And because some of these diseases have no symptoms, it can be hard to know that you have it,” said Hunt. “So it’s important for people to know their partners and to always use protection.”

Some of the infections can be treated if diagnosed early, and if partners are notified and come in for testing and for treatment, said Rogers-Meagher.

Others such as HPV and HIV/AIDS can be treated but not cured.

Rogers-Meagher said sexually active women of all ages should be tested for STDs.

“Getting their partner tested and on antibiotics is also important,” she added. “Most young men don’t get treatment until they are symptomatic.”

It’s never too late to talk to your child about STDs, even if he or she is already a teen.

Talking points

Here are a few tips for talking with your teen:

– Be informed. Read up on STD transmission and prevention. Being familiar with the topic will make you feel more comfortable.

– Ask your child what he or she knows and what else he or she would like to learn. Your child may know more than you realize. However, much of the information could be incorrect. Parents need to provide accurate information so their kids can make the right decisions and protect themselves.

– Make your child feel that he or she is in charge of the talk, not you. Ask his or her opinion on whatever you discuss. If you let your child’s questions lead the way, you’ll have a more productive talk.

u Explain that the only sure way to remain STD-free is to not have sex or intimate contact with anyone. However, everyone who is having sex should always use a latex condom with a spermicidal foam, cream or jelly that contains nonoxynol-9. Although nonoxynol-9 has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting gonorrhea and chlamydia, be aware that it does not protect against infection from other STDs or the virus that causes HIV/AIDS.

“Sometimes, we just have to listen and think about what they are saying,” said Rogers-Meagher. “We tell them they made a good decision by coming to the clinic. We’re glad they are here. Now let’s see how we can help.”

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