health promotes STD and HIV testing, community testing low | News






Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Associate Maura Dahl assists the Department of Public Health and Human Services Prutehi Hao Program booth with information on STD and HIV prevention and free condoms .




With the number of people getting tested for STDs and HIV having halved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Prutehi Hao Program is reaching out to the community to get tested and practice safer sex.

Vince Aguon, communicable disease II coordinator for the Prutehi Hao, or Protect Yourself, program said the pandemic has scared many residents away from going to clinics or hospitals for the sexually transmitted diseases and HIV testing.

“Usually we see 1,000 to 1,500 people a year for HIV and STD testing. In the first year of COVID-19 we saw a quarter of that number, and in 2021 so far about half,” Aguon said.

Sensitization

That’s why Prutehi Hao is sending more healthcare workers to engage with residents at events like the Life Skills Workshops in Hågat and Passport to Services at Ypao Beach Park in April.

Maura Dahl, a public health associate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Program through Public Health, represented the program at both events by handing out free male and female condoms and dental dams and showed how to use them correctly.

“Sexual health is one of those things that we can take a lot of preventative action on, and it goes a long way in terms of community health and longevity,” Dahl said during the life skills workshops.

The most common STD in Guam is chlamydia, followed by gonorrhea, with about several hundred cases reported each year, Aguon said.

Women and girls are the most exposed to STDs, with the population most at risk being those aged 15 to 24. This is why Aguon said more awareness raising in schools is needed.

Practices

Aguon said there are a few basic ways individuals can protect themselves against STDs and HIV.

One is to find out your status and that of your partner through tests carried out either at the Northern Region Public Health Center or through a primary care physician.

The most common myth Aguon said he heard about STDs in the community is that if someone doesn’t feel sick, they aren’t infected.

“Often infected people don’t show any symptoms and the only way to know is to get tested,” Aguon said.

Another is to practice safer sex using a condom to avoid spreading the disease from one person to another. He said public health offices have a large supply of free condoms that the public can request.

Aguon said those who may be at high risk of HIV exposure should talk to their doctor about getting a drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which helps prevent someone from getting HIV.

Pacific Daily News reporter Jackson Stephens covers poverty as a member of the Report for America corps. You can reach him at [email protected]

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