Syphilis Infections Rising in Kansas City
What do you know about sex? Er, OK, what do you know about healthy sex?
The good news is that new cases of HIV/AIDS across Kansas City have decreased in the last few years. The bad news? Kansas City health providers are seeing an increase in sexually transmitted infections (STI). In fact, new syphilis infections are on track to end this year with an increase of more than 30 percent over last year, according to Kansas City Health Department statistics.
To bring those numbers down, remember that healthy sex is easy with education, communication, and prevention.
Several Kansas City-based organizations provide free HIV/AIDS and STI education and prevention services, including KC CARE Health Center, which has offered free HIV testing since the late 1980s.
“While treatment options are available, educating people on healthy sex is the key for healthy lives,” said Johny Gonzalez, a prevention specialist with KC CARE Health Center. “I want to empower people by providing education.”
Gonzalez reports that KC CARE is on track to do over 25 percent more tests this year.
Another community organization, Good Samaritan Project (GSP), has been testing people for more than 15 years. Langston Jones, GSP community prevention specialist, says that GSP testing has increased 24 percent over 2017 and 32 percent more than in 2016.
The age range that is most affected right now, Gonzalez says, is 15- to 30-year-olds. Men that have sex with men (MSM) are in the highest risk category.
Both KC CARE and GSP provide free condoms to the community. People can find them in places like bars, libraries, housing assistance offices, and barbershops. These condom packages have testing and contact information.
Both organizations offer pop-up testing at various locations. “We go out to where people are so they do not have to come to us. Sometimes entering our offices can be a barrier for them,” said Gonzalez.
When someone gets tested, the prevention specialists use the opportunity to provide education about HIV/AIDS and STIs.
“People have a lot of misconceptions about STIs and how they are transmitted. I like to provide correct information to them when I can,” explained Gonzalez.
“Communication is another key component to healthy sex. It is important to be open and honest with your sexual partners about your testing history.”
Using proper terms is important. People should avoid asking their sexual partner whether they are “clean,” because it implies that someone with an STI or HIV/AIDS is unclean. Just ask when they were last tested and the results. If a potential partner cannot provide that information, it may be best to reconsider that person as a partner.
Where to get free HIV/AIDS and STI testing
- KC CARE Health Center (kccare.org): 816-753-5144
- The HIMM Project (thehimmproject.org): 816-663-9842
- Good Samaritan Project (gsp-kc.org): 816-561-8784
- Kansas City Health Department (kcmo.gov/health/clinic-services/std-clinic): 816-513-6379
- Overland Park's Healthy Living Projects (healthylivingprojects.org): 913-708-1414