Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs
HONOLULU — April is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month, and Tripler Army Medical Center, to include US Army-Schofield Barracks Army Public Health Nursing, are making major strides to draw awareness and prevent some of these problems in Hawaii.
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, now known as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, affect people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.
In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 20 million new cases each year, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years.
Why the change from STD to STI?
The concept of “disease,” as in “STD,” suggests a clear medical problem, but several of the most common STIs have no signs or symptoms. Many with STIs have mild signs and symptoms that can be easily overlooked.
According to Army Public Health Nursing, under the Department of Preventive Medicine, the most commonly treated STIs in Hawaii are chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV) and syphilis, with chlamydia and HPV being the most prevalent. These STIs can cause discolored or clear genital discharge, bleeding, infertility and neurological disorders if left untreated. In some cases there are no symptoms present at all.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common curable bacterial STIs. They are transmitted through infected secretions or fluids during unprotected sexual encounters (vaginal, oral, anal sex and sharing sex toys).
The bacteria or virus can also travel from the vaginal/penile area to the anus or rectum by wiping with toilet paper. It can also be transferred from fingers to other parts of the body (such as the eyes). For example, a mother can transmit an infection or a virus to her newborn through a vaginal delivery.
Symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia are similar and may include burning when urinating, abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, painfully swollen testicles or vaginal bleeding between periods. An STI acquired through rectal intercourse may cause anal itching, soreness, discharge, bleeding and painful bowel movements.
The symptoms can be mistaken for a urinary infection and may not show up for weeks after contracting the infection. Unfortunately, many individuals who have contracted an STI don’t even know it because they have no symptoms at all. This means they do not seek treatment and can unknowingly spread it to others.
Contrary to many misconceptions, STIs are not contracted through casual contact, (non-French) kissing, handshakes, sharing baths, towels or toilet seats.
A simple blood and/or urine test can determine whether an individual is infected. In some cases a swab or scrapping of an area with a lesion may be necessary.
The APHN STI screening, tracing and council have made significant strides to improve access to care and testing for STIs.
“The APHN has created STI walk-in hours Monday to Thursday, 8:30-11:30 a.m.,” said Maj. Veronica B. McMorris, Army Public Health Nursing officer in charge at the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks. “STI walk-in hours were implemented to increase access to care, facilitate and support service member needs where the service member has a relaxed and informal access to receive care for STIs.
“Soldiers commonly had to go to sick call where their peers may judge them. This clinic gives the Soldiers and family members the opportunity to receive care without having the judgments from their leaders and peers,” McMorris added.
Along with making access to care more private and readily available for the Soldiers and family members, the APHN has also begun testing Soldiers as soon as they arrive to the island.
“We have also begun testing while Soldiers are in-processing,” said McMorris. “We want to ensure that Soldiers are healthy and ready to support the mission.”
Luckily, treatment of STIs can be easily treated with antibiotics, depending on the diagnosis. There are certain STIs that are non-curable, such as HIV, herpes and HPV, but they are manageable with appropriate medications. Both partners should be treated and abstain from sex for a period of 7-10 days after treatment, and they should be re-tested within 90 days as a followup.
There are many methods to prevent contracting an STI:
- Abstain from sex (vaginal, oral and anal) or limit your sex partners.
- Always use condoms during intercourse from the very beginning until the last skin contact.
- Try to be monogamous and make sure your sexual partners are tested for STIs prior to engaging in sexual intercourse.
- Avoid water-based spermicides like nonoxynol-9 that are not effective in prevention of pregnancy or disease and may cause irritation
- Get tested regularly if you are sexually active – no matter if you have one or multiple partners.
Point of Contact
If you have any questions regarding STIs and prevention, contact your primary care manager for an appointment at 433-2778. You can also inquire at the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks during STI walk-in hours.
Getting enough sleep helps prevent chronic diseases and promotes overall health.
Take a few minutes to assess your sleeping habits and make any necessary changes to ensure you are getting the best quantity and quality of sleep that you can.
- Are you going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning?
- Are you sleeping in a quiet, dark and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold?
- Have you made your bed comfortable?
- Do you use the bedroom only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV or using the computer?
- Do you avoid large meals before bedtime?