“If you intentionally have sex with someone knowing that you have HIV or a STD and infect them, you could get into trouble with the law,” warns Nurse Practitioner Rhea Kyles. A warning that residents in the Big Easy need to take to heart. Criminal transmission of a STD covers different types of diseases. Most state laws always include HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
Louisiana ranks number one in the country for having the highest rate of STDs according to a study released this year by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. “We’re first in the nation for syphilis, second for gonorrhea followed by chlamydia. Louisiana currently ranks third in the nation for HIV cases,” says Kyles.
The statistics may seem daunting to some, but it’s a reality that health officials face daily. So much so that now adolescents as young as 13 can get tested for HIV in Louisiana. Statistics show that frequent testing is catching more cases of STDs early on and helping people get treatment.
While sex is a part of life – a natural stress reliever and a way to procreate – like most things, there are consequences if you don’t act responsibly. “Get tested. Start the conversation,” suggests Kyles. “Lately, I’m seeing more women being diagnosed with chlamydia and trichomoniasis than men. Know your stats and your partner’s too. It could save your life.”
Now more than ever, talking about your sexual health is important in relationships. It’s not only important to connect with the other person, but you need to protect yourself as well. Sounds easy, but not so easy to say after a night on the town and a couple of drinks at your favorite bar. Kyles offers some advice, “Be up front and start the conversation early in the night. Ask your partner if he or she is aware of STDs and their thoughts on protection. If you need some help with approaching the subject effectively, you can always seek professional help.” Primary Care providers, like those at Access Health Louisiana, are always willing to provide you with effective dialogue when talking with your significant other about sexual health.
The best way to protect yourself against the transmission of STDs is to wear condoms. Kyles recommends latex condoms or non-latex for people with latex allergies. She doesn’t recommend lambskin condoms nor diaphragms saying these are not effective methods to protect against transmission of STDs. If you know that you have a STD, tell your partner.
While penalties vary state by state, most categorize the crime of intentionally transmitting a sexually transmitted disease or HIV as either a felony or misdemeanor offense. Some penalties may include: jail or prison time, fines up to $50,000, restitution to the victim, probation and even registering for the state’s sex offender registry. 2011 Louisiana Laws Revised Statutes Title 14-Criminal Law RS 14:43.5 sites intentional exposure to AIDS virus as a felony punishable by fine,prison with or without hard labor for not more than ten years, or both.
Being responsible in your sexual health means getting tested. “Access Health Louisiana providers take everyone’s privacy seriously,” says Kyles. “All testing is done in our exam rooms and HIV testing can even be done anonymously.”
What does STD testing entail? First, remember that your life is at stake. The future of your own sexual health lies in your hands. Checking for these diseases is simple. Testing depends on the type of STD. For example, a quick urine test is conducted to check for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis. A blood test is used to detect syphilis, HIV, hepatitis A-B and C, as well as herpes simplex Type 1 and 2.
“At our clinic, we use the rapid HIV test which consists of a quick finger prick to detect HIV,” says Kyles. “There is also an over-the-counter HIV testing kit called OraQuick. This kit may be purchased at most drug stores. With growing concerns over human papillomavirus (HPV), pap exams can be done annually for women to detect HPV and cervical cancer.
Remember, sex is meant to be enjoyed. Be responsible. If you know that you have a STD, get treated. Tell your partner and take precautions to protect one another. For more advice on how to maintain optimal sexual health or to get tested, make an appointment with Rhea Kyles at Access Health Louisiana Primary Care at the Pythian Building in New Orleans. For same day appointments, call (504) 226-2976 or for more information, log onto accesshealthla.org.