Reading Past the Headlines

Like we talked about last week, April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness month (#STDMonth18).  The theme of this year is Treat Me Right (#TreatMeRight). This theme has 2 distinct sides: the patient and the provider.  Where last week’s blog focused on the patient and how to be an independent healthcare consumer, this week will focus a little more on providers (but it is good info for everyone!). In order to provide the best care for patients, a healthcare provider needs to know what’s going on in the community, and when to delve a little deeper into rumor vs reality.

An attention-grabbing headline appeared last month in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: HIV, Syphilis Cluster affecting at least 125 people discovered in Milwaukee. Upon reading this, one would assume that 125 people in Milwaukee were diagnosed with HIV or syphilis (or both?). Well, that’s not accurate.  The accurate statement would actually be “A social network of 125 people may have been exposed to HIV and/or syphilis.” That’s a little less shocking, isn’t it? In a follow up article one week later, the newspaper correctly states that, of the more than 125 people in this “cluster” or social-network, 76 were diagnosed with HIV and/or Syphilis. The numbers are still high and should not be blown off, but it’s important to have accurate information.  Providers should continue doing what they are (hopefully) always doing: getting accurate sexual histories on all patients, screening patients according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and dispelling rumors and combating the stigma that always surround sexually transmitted diseases. The friendly people at your local public health department are always the best resources for accurate statistics when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases in your community.

So remember, just because you read it online, it does not mean it’s true. Don’t even get me started on the condom snorting challenge


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