A basket in the lobby of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association office in Craig is filled with condoms available free to the public. The condoms are concealed in brown paper, meant to make taking one discreet, and include instructions on how to use them. VNA screenings in March for sexually transmitted diseases found 35 people, or all of those screened, recently had unprotected sex.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

A basket in the lobby of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association office in Craig is filled with condoms available free to the public. The condoms are concealed in brown paper, meant to make taking one discreet, and include instructions on how to use them. VNA screenings in March for sexually transmitted diseases found 35 people, or all of those screened, recently had unprotected sex.

'A blatant disregard'

STD screenings reveal a majority of patients using unsafe sex practices

If you go

What: Confidential screenings for sexually transmitted diseases

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28

Where: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, 745 Russell St.

Cost: Free

Call: 824-8233

At a glance

• On March 17 and 31, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association hosted free, confidential screenings to test for sexually transmitted diseases.

• About two-thirds of those who attended the screenings were at "high risk" for contracting an STD.

• The VNA is planning to host screenings this month and in May.

• VNA community care director Cole White said he hopes people between the ages of 16 and 18 will attend upcoming screenings.

— Screenings conducted at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association last month showed some disturbing results, VNA community care director Cole White said.

The VNA hosted two free screening sessions, which tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV.

Moffat County residents, along with people from Rio Blanco County and Wyoming, came to the screenings.

On March 17, 15 people came to the VNA for screenings, followed by 20 people on the March 31 screen date.

"We were really bumping up against (screening) capacity," White said, adding that a sole nurse from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment conducted the screenings on both days.

Still, no one was turned away, he said.

The screenings found a trend among the 35 adults in attendance.

"What we were seeing is : people who are coming through are people practicing unsafe sex," he said, which includes having intercourse with multiple partners and not using a condom.

The screenings were conducted in response to the growing number of reported STD cases in Moffat County.

According to the Department of Public Health and Environment, the number of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases more than doubled from 2006 to 2007.

About two-thirds of the people who attended the clinics were at "high risk," for contracting an STD, White said.

Risk factors include having intercourse with more than one partner, routinely practicing unsafe sex and using drugs intravenously, he said.

All the clients at the screenings said they had recently had unprotected sex.

"It's destructive behavior because it's a blatant disregard for contracting or passing on an STD," White said.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, can be cured with antibiotics if detected early, White said.

But, if left untreated for too long, these diseases can have lifelong effects, including infertility, joint pain and skin lesions, he said.

White believes using a condom is one of the best protections against STDs for people who are sexually active.

Although protected sex doesn't grant complete immunity against chlamydia, gonorrhea and other STDs, "it's up there" as one of the best defenses, he said.

Records of how many screened patients tested positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV were not available as of press time.

Most of the people who attended the clinics ranged between the ages of 20 and 35. People younger than 19 or older than 35 years were "few and far between," White said - about six percent of the total attendance.

The VNA plans to host two more screenings in coming weeks to reach these two demographics, White said.

The first screening is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28 at the VNA's Craig office, 745 Russell St. The second is tentatively scheduled for May 5.

A nurse from Public Health and Environment will conduct the screenings, which are confidential and usually take about 20 minutes.

White said he hopes more people between the ages of 16 and 18 come to the next round of screenings.

"We haven't even tapped that group," he said. "There (are) a lot of misconceptions among the younger generation : about how STDs are passed on."

People unable to attend upcoming screenings can schedule a private appointment at the VNA.

"No one is turned away, regardless of their inability to pay," White said.

For more information or to schedule a screening, call 824-8233.

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