Citing national increase in STI’s, Kenner health experts discuss sex

By Lesley AtkinsonNovember 30, 2021

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – Sex can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but it’s an undeniable fact of life worthy of consideration and discussion before it happens.

Beyond important issues like the appropriateness of an intimate relationship and the willingness of both individuals to engage in such activities, there is the matter of practicing safe sex with someone you have just met or in situations involving multiple partners.

The Army Public Health Nursing Services staff at Kenner Clinic has information available for military personnel, their family members and other authorized beneficiaries to help them better understand the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and how to prevent transmission. The range of services includes testing, treatment, counseling on risk reduction, and conducting contact interviews and notification to help stop the spread of STIs.

While they affect individuals of all ages, STIs take a particularly heavy toll on young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that youth, ages 15-24, account for almost half of the 2.6 million new sexually transmitted infections that occurred in the U.S. in 2019.

“Nobody can say specifically why this is happening among our nation’s youths,” pointed out Dr. Stephen Pinkerton, a nurse practitioner with a PhD in Epidemiology who works in APHN Services. “The assumed contributing factors, though, include decreased use of condoms, increased unprotected sexual encounters, increased testing for STI’s, antibiotic resistance, recurrent or repeat infections, not performing lab tests to ensure a cure has occurred 12 weeks after treatment, public health budget cuts, the rising popularity of dating apps, or some other cause that has not been considered.

“Whatever the reasons, the increase in these numbers is alarming,” he further noted. “In terms of prevention and treatment, the country is getting worse, not better. 2019 was the sixth consecutive year of sharp increases in reports of STIs.”

The CDC is tracking approximately 1.9 million STI cases reported in 2014, 2 million in 2015, 2.2 million in 2016, 2.4 million in 2017 and 2.5 million in 2018.

STIs also are increasing among the nation’s major ethnic groups. In 2019, the rates for Hispanic or Latino people were 1-2 times that of the non-Hispanic White population. Cases reported that year involving American-Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander ethnicities were 3-5 times that of non-Hispanic Whites. Infections among African-American or Black people were 5-8 times higher in the same comparison.

There are more than 20 types of STIs including Chlamydia; Genital Herpes; Gonorrhea; Hepatitis A, B and C; HIV/AIDS; HPV; Trichomoniasis and Syphilis. Ways they are spread include skin-to-skin contact; body fluid; or oral, vaginal and anal sex. Even if individuals don’t see symptoms, there still may be a chance they could have been exposed.

“All STIs are preventable if individuals properly use protection and talk to their partner(s) to determine if they have previously had an STI,” said Epidemiology Technician Gary Woodford from APHN Services. “Also keep in mind that condoms have to be used properly and do not protect against all STIs that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact such as Genital Herpes, HIV or HPV. Condoms are about 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, HIV and other STI’s if worn consistently and correctly.”

As part of the beneficiary education and risk reduction program, Woodford offers a presentation titled “Condom Sense,” a discussion focused on choosing and handling condoms. Helpful guidance offered includes taking note of the expiration date and ensuring the product is not ripped, torn, dried out/brittle or sticky. The condoms should be stored at room temperature and not left in a vehicle. Most of all, don’t store it in a wallet or purse where it can be damaged. Be sure to use water-based lubricants. This helps reduce friction that can cause the condom to break. Not using a condom means increasing your risk.

Although condoms are great, they’re not the only tools available to fight STI’s, Woodford also noted. Pre-exposure vaccination is one of the most effective methods for preventing transmission of Human Papilloma Virus and Hepatitis A and B. Immunizations can be arranged and received through assigned healthcare providers.

The CDC lists HPV (Gardasil) vaccinations as safe and recommended for males and females as young as 11 or 12 years old up to age 26. Sharing clinical decision-making about HPV vaccination is recommended for certain adults, ages 27-45, who are not adequately vaccinated in accordance with existing guidance (more info at

Prevention medicines also are available to reduce the risk of HIV transmission such as Pre-exposed Prophylaxis, commonly referred to as PrEP. It, too, is available through Kenner’s Army Public Health Clinic.

“We can’t stress enough that it’s important to have healthy, open communication with our partners and even our adolescent children,” Woodford summarized. “Although many adolescents may say they know everything about sex, studies have found they’re not completely informed, particularly in the area of sexually transmitted illness.

“We also understand that having the ‘sex talk’ with our children is difficult,” he continued. “The APHN clinic is here to help you with that discussion. We encourage parents to schedule an appointment for STI education for teens. We’re going to provide the correct facts and information that our young beneficiaries need or want to know.”

Woodford also underscored the importance of “knowing your status.” Many STI’s are asymptomatic, and the best thing sexually active individuals can do is be tested. Some STI’s are curable, most are treatable, but all are manageable. Call and schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider and know your status.

Reputable online resources also are available to those seeking further information on STIs. Woodford recommended a site titled “MTV It’s Your (Sex) Life,” which offers insights into many topics such as pregnancy, STI and testing, relationships, resources and LGBTQ considerations.

Kenner also offers self-care classes to incoming AIT soldiers and any unit by request. Free condoms are available to both males and females with no questions asked in Preventive Medicine on the 2nd floor of the clinic.

For further information or to schedule an appointment, call 866-533-5242.