Unique Outreach for STD Epidemic

Nearly a decade ago, Omaha declared a public health epidemic. The number of young people in Omaha with sexually transmitted diseases was off the charts---- much higher than the national average. The Douglas County Health Department is trying to educate about the dangers in some unlikely places.

Wednesday evening at the Saddlebrook Community Center in northwest Omaha, a man from the health department sits at a table in the lobby between the elementary school, community center and library.

Once a month, the health department spends two hours at the community center offering free STD screenings. The outreach happens at 8 different libraries.

"We have to be able to reach our youth right where they are at. Instead of thinking they are coming to us -- that is not going to happen. We need to go to them," said Sherri Nared, HIV Prevention Specialist with the Douglas County Health Department.

She's taken the STD message not just to libraries and churches, but would someday like barbers and stylists to be the messenger too.

"A lot of times, stylists are their therapists," she said.

By going to a community center for example -- experts believe youngsters will become more comfortable in talking and listening.

"They don't think they are at risk," said Nared. "I have to remind them that they are special and deserve the best and don't have to have sex with just anyone. And if you do, these are some of the consequences of what could happen. Our rates are high. They may even go up some more. But I believe as time progresses, they'll go down because our youth are paying attention."

Here are the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control: Douglas County's rate (603) for chlamydia for 2011 per 100,000 population is higher than Los Angeles County (515), but lower than the Chicago area (709).

Here are Douglas county numbers (171) for gonorrhea -- more than Los Angeles County (103) -- but less than the Chicago area (209).

Part of the concern is many STD's don't have symptoms.


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