Combating Sexually Transmitted Infections in NELA Teens
A majority of sexually transmitted infections (STI's) in Northeast Louisiana happen among people under the age of 25. Iberia Watley, program monitor at the Louisiana Office of Public Health in Shreveport, informs parents and professionals on STI's and resources to combat high numbers in northeast Louisiana.
Watley says that even though it's difficult for parents to talk to their children about sex, they should take advantage of the education available to them. Parents should approach their children proactively about sexual health and offer emotional support throughout their life's stages.
On STIs that are most prevalent in Northeast Louisiana
As a part of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Ouachita Parish is located in Region 8. Region 8 covers 12 parishes in Northeast Louisiana and it experiences high rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. In 2016, Region 8 had the fifth highest number of chlamydia diagnoses, the second highest for gonorrhea, and the third highest for primary and secondary syphilis.
On action that is being taken to implement STI education and prevention
In Northeast Louisiana, the Office of Public Health has organized a STD/HIV task force that works to address
It's difficult to talk to a child about sex, and it's difficult for [children] to share this information with their parents in fear that they may be punished or disappoint their parents.
the high rates of disease. The task force includes members from the community, healthcare providers, mental health providers, parents, elected officials, schools, staff, Department of Corrections, and others.
The task force helps us to develop policies, come up with interventions, and other things we can do to address the high rates of infection.
One thing that has been implemented is being able to access the school system. We have been able to go into schools and provide education on sexually transmitted infections. In one school in the region – not in the Monroe area – we were not only able to provide education, but to also offer screening for sexually transmitted infections.
On how parents can have informed conversations with teens about sexual health
Each parent needs to determine when to talk to their child about sexual health and to what degree. There are several factors to consider when approaching this topic: your child’s maturity, the environment, and a parent’s beliefs and values.
Considering the number of young children who are sexually abused, parents and the community-at-large must begin conversations with our children as early as possible to educate kids on the difference between good and bad touch. There are several community resources available to expand on the topic of speaking to children such as the Children’s Coalition.
You cannot look at a person and tell if they have a sexually transmitted infection. First, parents must determine if their child is having sex. Anyone who has unprotected sex puts themselves at risk for acquiring an infection.
Parents should become aware of resources that are in the community to educate and treat their children so they can share this information with children as a resource in addition to parental support. The Louisiana Office of Public Health does have a website that contains accurate information and resources at louisianahealthhub.org.