STD screenings at VNA get 'huge' turnout

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— In examining people for sexually transmitted diseases, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has conducted more than 200 tests.

The tests are for the STDs gonorrhea, chlamydia and human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

The VNA screened patients for STDs on Monday during a free clinic that gave patients complete confidentiality in handling their results.

"We're a small community," VNA medical assistant Donna Brewer said. "We made sure to get people through as quick as possible so that they wouldn't be left waiting. We also referred to them by number instead of name to protect their identities. We try not to go through a lot of paperwork, either."

Brewer said the day's attendance was on par with the clinics from previous months.

"We've had four clinics so far," she said. "We're trying to do them about every other month, and we've had a good response each time. Upwards of 15 people came in today. That's huge for us."

Brewer cited a total of 75 screenings since the VNA began the clinics, with three tests per patient for gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV.

"According to 2007 reports, gonorrhea and chlamydia had high rates in Moffat, Routt, Mesa and Jackson counties," Brewer said. "We haven't gotten the results from the second half of the year yet, but hopefully it's gone down and will go down even more with these clinics."

Patients can expect results from gonorrhea and chlamydia tests within seven to 10 days. HIV test results are ready within 10 minutes.

Brewer stressed the importance of HIV testing in particular.

"People with multiple sexual partners should get HIV tests every six months to a year," she said.

Brewer said the VNA would host the next clinic Sept. 8. She encouraged anybody who has issues with STDs to call the VNA as soon as necessary.

"People have called us after each clinic to ask if they can still get checked out," she said. "Of course they still can, and we don't want them to wait until the next one if they need help. It's hugely important for anybody at risk to get checked out. Not knowing that they have an STD is the worst part of it."

Brewer said the possibility of increasing the frequency of the clinics is unlikely.

"We're looking at need," she said. "We're doing well with the clinics as they are now, but we may hold more if we get results that show that it would help."

Brewer expressed concern about the variety of people who have attended each of the clinics.

"Different people have shown up every time," she said. "I just hope that the people who aren't returning don't think that they don't have a problem anymore."

Brewer said patients have been grateful for the confidentiality, and the VNA's "no questions asked" policy.

"People have been receptive because of it," she said. "We want to try to target the young adults in the area, because they might have the most problems coming to us. We won't ask about sexual habits or drug use - not because we don't care, but we just want to help you get tested."

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