By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Illinois Department of Public Health has implemented its first sexually transmitted disease clinic in Adams County.
This partnership between IDPH and Family Planning Inc. provides more access to STD screenings for at-risk individuals regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation. Beverly Simmons, executive director of Family Planning, explained sparse resources through the Adam's County Health Department had previously limited STD screening availability, specifically for males without insurance. Through the IDPH, anyone may be screened for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV for a $50 fee.
"Sexually transmitted disease is not a topic that everyone wants to talk about or even wants to know about," Simmons said. "But it's important for the community to understand."
Family Planning and the STD clinic are two separate entities housed in the same building, 636 Hampshire, Suite 201, Quincy. The clinic requires appointments for screenings. A nurse practitioner is available to see clients on Tuesdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays from 1:45 to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m.
STDs, sometimes called sexually transmitted infections, are exchanged through body fluids such as vaginal secretions, semen, blood, breast milk and saliva, and can be contracted through actions such as sexual intercourse, skin-to-skin contact or genital rubbing.
Joanna Bunch, the STD coordinator for the Adams County Health Department, said the county is among the top 20 counties in Illinois for sexually transmitted diseases. The department has documented a 160 percent increase in the cases of gonorrhea and a 49 percent increase in chlamydia between 2010 and 2011. Bunch hopes the clinic, a new avenue for awareness and treatment, may reduce the spreading of STDs in the community.
"Hopefully, this will help add to the arsenal that we have to keep the community protected," Bunch said.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are easily treated when recognized, but these infections often lack symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even infections without symptoms can cause severe health issues such as chronic pelvic pain, infertility and life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
The CDC estimates that 50.6 million men and 59.6 million women have sexually transmitted infections in the United States.
Traditionally, STD screenings and services have been more readily available for women, Simmons said. Family Planning Inc. has offered testing for males in the past two years. She said limiting services to one sex only could increase the number of infections, so she hopes this new clinic gives greater access to care for anyone at risk for an STD.
Beverly Stumpf, the clinic's nurse practitioner, said those in need of testing sometimes use the emergency room for STD screenings if they lack a primary care physician.
Others seek a deeper level of confidentiality regarding their sexual health. Stumpf said at-risk patients often avoid seeking care from their primary physicians. The stigma of having venereal disease often leads to a delay in getting screened, which can allow an infection time to spread.
"When you go to a bigger facility, people are more likely to see you," Stumpf said. "I think confidentiality is a big problem with getting treated."
Simmons hopes the clinic will change behavior that causes sexually transmitted diseases to spread.
When a patient maintains an awareness of his or her own health -- and his or her partner's health -- it reduces the chance for spreading infection, she said.
"It's not just screening and treating," Simmons said. "Education is huge, and changing behaviors, so we can get those rates down."