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Condom-wearing chile helps raise STD awareness in New Mexico

LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico Department of Health is using creative means to get the word out about National Condom Month.

An Instagram post at the start of of the month depicts a red chile pepper outfitted with a condom along with the message: “Wrap it up! It’s your health – Take charge and be safe! #CondomMonth”

The message is timely, given that rates of sexually transmitted disease in New Mexico have risen sharply, according to the most-recent data. The syphilis rate rose 61 percent from 2015 to 2016; the gonorrhea rate climbed 40 percent; and the chlamydia rate increased 4 percent. New Mexico was recently rated as the fifth most sexually diseased state.

The department’s recent Instagram post continues: “If one of Cupid’s arrows finds its way to you this month (or any other time), we want you to be safe. Condoms are inexpensive and reduce the risks for sexually transmitted diseases.”

Department of health spokesman David Morgan said the agency “takes the spread and treatment of all sexually transmitted diseases as well as the number of teen births in our state very seriously.

“There remains no better ways to prevent both teen births and STDs than through abstinence, mutual monogamy and, when necessary, the use of condoms,” he said. “The use of the chile was to create a memorable image for February’s National Condom Month for use on our social media platforms. Any discussions about sexual health among couples, families and New Mexicans of any age that are sparked by the use of this graphic are a welcome outcome.”

For gonorrhea infections, most age groups in New Mexico saw increases. But the biggest leap happened within people ages 25-29, followed by people ages 30 to 34. With women ages 25-29, the rate increased 37 percent, according to health department data. Among men of the same age group, the rate rose 51 percent.

People in their 20s have the highest overall rates of infection, compared to other age groups.

A similarly young demographic makes up the audience of Instagram with nearly six in 10 Internet users in the 18-29 age group using the app, according to according to Pew Research Center. About one-third of 30- to 49-year-olds use Instagram.

The department encourages sexually active adults to get screened at least once a year for STDs, either at their primary care physician or a department-run STD clinic. Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are treatable infections, but it’s important to get screened to find them, health officials have said. Some stages of illness don’t show symptoms. The agency also offers HIV testing.

The health department’s Instagram account has about 1,970 followers.

The agency’s other social media pages include:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nmdoh

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nmdoh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nmdoh

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/newmexicodepartmentofhealth/

Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443, dalba@lcsun-news.com or @AlbaSoular on Twitter.

If you go

Condom distribution: The New Mexico Department of Health will be partnering with NMSU and Aggie Health and Wellness Center for National Condom Day on Valentine’s Day. NMDOH staff will be distributing safe sex kits at Corbett Center and various parts of the NMSU and Doña Ana Community College campuses that include condoms along with information about their proper use. At least 15,000 condoms are expected to be distributed.

New Mexico Department of Health Las Cruces Central

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday (closed noon to 1 p.m.)

Where: 1170 N. Solano Drive, Las Cruces

Info: 575-528-5001, 866-668-0882 (toll-free)

STD screening available

Appointments are preferred, but walk-in visits are accepted.

http://nmhivguide.org

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©2018 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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