Educator: ‘no sex’ best way to avoid STDs

Published 4:45 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

A local health educator recently gave a teenage audience a eye-opening look at how sexually transmitted diseases can affect the human body.

Herbert E. Perry is an R.N. and B.S.N. who works for the Georgia Division of Public Health’s Acute, Chronic and Infectious Disease program. He was the guest speaker at the Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center, a ministry aimed at helping at-risk young black males. There are many different types of sexually transmitted diseases, varying in symptoms, severity and incubation period, Perry told a group of about 15 youth and several concerned adults. If left untreated, any STD can cause permanent damage to the body, he said.

The reason Perry said he uses a straightforward approach to talking to teens and young adult about STDs, including a slideshow of pictures showing symptoms of the diseases, is to help them make more informed choices about having sex. There is no such thing as “100 percent” protected sex, he said. STDs can also spread through skin-to-skin contact with infected sores, through contact with blood or body fluids and by sharing needles or syringes.

“How does HIV spread? What’s the number one way to prevent it?” Perry asked. “Not to have sex. You have to take responsibility for your actions.”

A person can get an STD by having sex with someone who has one or in general, people who have STDs may exhibit burning, itching or unusual discharges around their genitals, Perry said.

However, only a doctor and medical tests can tell whether or not someone truly has an STD because the symptoms may not show up immediately or for an extended period of time. Once they do show up, they may disappear but that doesn’t mean the person is cured, Perry said.

“It’s what you don’t see that is going to get you,” Perry said. “[STDs] are easy to get but hard to contend with. When starting a new relationship, you don’t know who your partner has been with sexually or what they may have.”

Perry advises any couple considering a sexual relationship to go to their doctor or their local health department to get tested for HIV and other STDs. Perry’s advice to couples whose tests show they are not infected is to maintain an exclusive relationship.

Free condoms and other information about sexual health can be obtained from the Decatur County Health Department, located at 928 S. West St. in Bainbridge. Their phone number is 248-3055. More information about sexual health can be found online at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site at www.cdc.gov/sexualhealth/