STI's a problem for young people in Dane Co. - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Sexually transmitted infections a problem for young people in Dane Co.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- There are an alarming number of people in Dane County who have a sexually transmitted infection and public health officials are hoping a new program will help prevent the spread of disease.

Health experts say one in two sexually active young people will get a sexually transmitted infection, known as an STI, by age 25. That includes infections like the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can lead to some types of cancer.

Public Health Madison and Dane County officials say about 2,000 cases of STI are reported every year. Those numbers aren't going down. 

The agency is offering free STI testing for those who are less likely to seek help.

"We can see any Dane County residents who don't have health insurance who want to get tested for STI's and anyone under 18 if their parents are insured," says HIV/STI program coordinator Mary Jo Hussey. "If there's any barrier to getting this testing, we can provide that free."
 
Hussey says many people may not even know they're carrying an STI because it's possible to be infected but show no symptoms. The STI can still be doing harm, like causing infertility or other more serious infections.
 
The most at risk population are young people between 15 and 25-years-old. Groups on the UW-Madison campus work to raise awareness of STI prevention.
 
"Sex Out Loud" aims to help students become more comfortable talking about STI's and sexual health.
 
"If it was as easy to talk about STI's as it was the common cold, we'd be having those conversations a lot more frequently and we'd be a lot more comfortable talking to our partners, our doctors, and going and getting tested," says Hailey Cross, a student who works at Sex Out Loud.
 
The group hands out contraceptives and holds meetings on campus to talk about sexuality and sexual health. 
 
"We think that a lot of the fear surrounding STI's is misplaced," says Alex Tucker, with Sex Out Loud.
 
They're partnering in an event with The AIDS Network on Friday at Plan B in Madison, where free testing will be offered.
 
Health officials say because of the outreach on campus, college students have a better awareness. They're most worried about high school aged students, which is why the free testing is offered to people under 18.
 
The Public Health STI Clinic is located at:
2705 E. Washington Ave
Clinic hours:
Monday 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Wednesday 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
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