Cherokee Phoenix (02.04.2014)
Cherokee Phoenix recently reported that age plays a role in what STD tests a person might receive when they visit a Cherokee Nation (CN) health facility. Taking its lead from multiple CDC recommendations, CN aims to identify and treat all STDs, including hepatitis C, HIV, and chlamydia.
CDC recommends everyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C since most diagnosed cases are among people in that age group. Most people do not notice hepatitis C symptoms for 20–30 years, although it can cause serious liver damage during this time and can lead to cancer. According to Dr. Jorge Mera, CN infectious disease director, they expect to broaden hepatitis C testing to this group to get them on treatment. “By screening them just because they were born in a certain time period makes it a lot easier for the screening process to take place and we can pick up a lot of people who have an infection that they don’t know about,” he said. CN also will focus on hepatitis C testing for anyone with additional risk factors, including those who received a blood transfusion before 1982, got an unprofessional tattoo, or used intravenous drugs.
CDC also recommends testing females between the ages of 16 and 25 for chlamydia because symptoms are uncommon but the disease may lead to infertility. A simple urine test and a round of antibiotics will prevent chlamydia from causing future health problems for women.
Due to advances in HIV medications that allow infected people to live longer and healthier lives, CN hopes to test more people to get them on treatments sooner. CDC has recommended since 2006 that sexually active individuals between 13 and 64 years old get screened for HIV. “Although we do not have a cure (for HIV) we have excellent treatments that we can give the patients and prevent them from developing AIDS so we can have an AIDS-free society,” Mera said. CN started screening for HIV in 2012, reaching 3 percent of eligible citizens at the onset of screening; that number jumped to 17 percent within a year.