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Military Personnel Urged to Get STD Testing

( - April 30, 2004) Members of the Preventative Medicine staff at both the Naval Hospital Beaufort and the Depot Branch Medical Clinic are trying raise sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness among military personnel.

Preventive medicine urges that service members get annual check ups, remain informed and aware that there are STDs out there, and remember that everyone is susceptible.

"This awareness month targets everyone who is engaging in any type of sexual activity, regardless of whether they are involved in a monogamous relationship or not," said Chief Petty Officer Antonio Rodriguez, leading chief petty officer for preventative medicine at the Naval Hospital Beaufort. "The hope is to pass on to the population that it's around you and it isn't something that you put on the back burner."

As the hope of awareness rises, self-imposed expectations also rise for the preventive medicine personnel to educate more people as to what these diseases are.

"HIV and STDs don't discriminate against individuals, so it is important to get the message out to everybody," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Worley, preventative medicine technician. "We are hoping to see an increased awareness. Where ever you go there is the existence of STD's and HIV and our best resource is education."

The most prevalent point made by preventative medicine personnel is that people know that these diseases do not show favoritism.

"There is no color barrier, no one is immune," said Rodriguez. It can happen to anyone whether young or old and service members need to be aware that these diseases can affect us all in one way or another.

"It is the first time away from home for a lot of the people we want to focus on," he said. "When you come into the military service it opens up a bunch of doors and that presents a lot more opportunities."

Very often, this age group has not yet matured and takes a lot of risks because of it, said Rodriguez.

"Young adolescents are at a higher level of risk because they are starting to experiment with their sexuality," said Rodriquez. "From the ages of 15 to the mid-20's is when you are more susceptible of [contracting] a sexually transmitted disease."

Even though the focus may be primarily military, this month of awareness is intended for anyone who can be affected by STDs.

"All over the U.S. there are high rates of STDs, with Chlamydia being the highest," said Worley. "People really need to be aware of the fact that some of these STDs are permanent (Herpes, HIV and AIDS) and some of them are devastating to your system. They need to protect themselves and if they are not aware, they need to find the resources and investigate."

Worley insists that people need to be proactive by informing themselves as to what these diseases are and how to prevent them from happening.

"If they don't know how to use protection, then there are resources to help them," he said. "They can come to us and we can give classes, or they can go to, where there is a sexually transmitted diseases link that has a plethora of information. The Center for Disease Control is a government Web site and is the ultimate authority for diseases in general. They are the ones who put out the STD guidelines that we follow."

While having access to information helps people remain informed, Worley insists that people come to the clinic to verify any suspicions.

"People should never self diagnose, it is a bad idea," said Worley. "Do a conscience check, if you think that there is the possibility that you may have an STD then you should come in to be seen. The reason that it is important is that there are STDs that you can have that you may not know that you have. For example a woman may have Chlamydia, but have no symptoms and not know that she has it; it can spread to other systems in her body and cause permanent damage."

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