Sexually transmitted infections and prevention

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Sexually Transmitted Infections are the most common infectious diseases in the United States. There are 19 million new infections each year, half of them involving people between 15-24 years of age. Here at Osan Air Base, we have the highest rate of STI's in PACAF and we'd like to change that. It is difficult to be "Ready to Fight Tonight!" when you're dealing with an STI.

In order to be 100% medically ready, it pays to know some important facts about STIs. For one thing, they can affect men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Infection can be spread through routes besides sexual activities. Because infections are spread by similar methods for all STIs, a person can easily pick up more than one infection at a time.

People can spread STIs to their partners even if they themselves have no symptoms. This is particularly true for chlamydia, the most common STI. Eighty percent of women and fifty percent of men may have an infection and not show any symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can damage the reproductive organs, leading to ectopic pregnancies (a dangerous condition where a fetus develops outside of the uterus) or sterility in females. Males may develop prostate infections and sterility.

STI's can cause other health problems as well. The development of cervical cancer may be related to having contracted an STI. Experts also believe that having an STI increases one's risk for becoming infected with HIV. Diseases such as hepatitis B, genital herpes, or syphilis can be passed from a mother to her baby before, during, or immediately after birth, causing serious illness in the child.

How an STI is treated depends on what is causing it. Bacterial STIs are treated with antibiotics. However, there is no cure for many of the STIs caused by viruses, such as genital herpes, hepatitis B, or HIV. The only treatment is to control the symptoms and manage the disease. Hepatitis B vaccination can prevent infection with hepatitis B, but it must be either taken ahead of time or shortly after a known exposure to the virus.

The most important thing of all to know is how to prevent an STI. The best way is to either refrain from having sex (abstinence), or to be in a committed, monogamous relationship. The next best way is to always use condoms during sex. If you use birth control pills, realize that their only purpose is to prevent pregnancy. They do not offer any protection whatsoever against STIs!

For more information on STI prevention visit http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm or call Public Health at 784-2509/4494. If you suspect that you have been in contact with someone who has an STI or you are showing signs of infection, call your
Primary Care Manager or the 51 MDG Central Appointment Desk at 784-1847.