Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

STD prevention, health focus of HOPE workshop

By Lailani Upham

PABLO — A two-day workshop with ladies ranging from 13 to elder status joined in a sex education class that focused on HIV prevention, but covered topics ranging from male and female anatomy to how sexually-transmitted diseases can ruin a person’s system for life.

Nearly 75 mothers, aunties, daughters, nieces from the community took the opportunity to learn the harsh realities of the growing tragedy of STD’s at the Native Women Hope class sponsored by the Salish Kootenai College Center for Prevention and Wellness last month.

Each participant received gifts, lunch and a $100.

One participant shared that learning the signs, symptoms and types of STD’s was eye opening and startling.

Another participant added that she did not know there were so many STD’s and added she thought she was educated enough on the diseases and found out there are many more facts that frightened her to change her choices when it comes to dating.

Some of the highly known diseases and infections in Lake County such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, hepatitis, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and syphilis were covered in-depth with participants.

Treatments are available if detected on time; however, some symptoms are hard to notice. Graham told the participants it is important to ask for these tests when receiving a yearly exam because most tests do not include testing for STD’s.

According to the curriculum research, Northwest Portland Area Indian health Board reported that one out of ten sexually active teen has chlamydia.

The report stated that gonorrhea rates are highest among 15 to 24 year olds.

October Char-Koosta reported that this year Lake County had a rise in reported gonorrhea and chlamydia cases and that an overwhelming percentage was within the Indian community.

The Char-Koosta article went on to state that according to Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services 2013 data there were 32 reported cases of gonorrhea from January 1 through October 10, in Lake County and the Flathead Reservation. Twenty-one of the cases were female and 11 were male — 25 of the reported cases were American Indians. The average age of the individuals is 24 years of age. There were also 103 cases of chlamydia reported. Among the reported cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia, 15 people had both. In all 89 of the 119 clients with chlamydia, gonorrhea or both were beneficiaries of Tribal Health.

A few participants openly shared how grotesque the images were of the symptoms of the diseases and infections, however said it was most helpful in painting a life-changing image to move forward with healthier decisions.

“This class has been so helpful and way more knowledgeable about STD/STI’s than I could even begin to think of. It is a very scary thing how much it affects women in the long run.”

The SKC Prevention and Wellness Director Niki Graham conducted the class on STD’s. She explained that women who go untreated from infection could spread it to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease and can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system leading to chronic pain and infertility and even cervical cancer.

Men are not exempt from pain and infertility when it comes to STD/STI contraction. Studies are being done to see if the untreated infections can be contributor to colon cancer in men.

Another participant stated she was thrilled at how much material was jammed into the two days. “So much information to educate my family members and I’m not afraid of telling or sharing the information.”

Funding to develop curriculum and host the invention-based program for Native women comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.

According to the OWH, the purpose of the program is to increase HIV prevention knowledge and reduce the risk of contracting HIV among Native American Indian and Alaska Native women living in Indian Country using multi-level interventions and approaches.

The idea is for organizations to implement one and/or any combination of community- and group-level interventions. The Center for Prevention and Wellness also hosts the annual Women4Wellness event that brings in thousands of women for free health screenings and more at the SKC Joe McDonald Health Center.

Many participants shared they did not realize how effective condoms were to protecting against HIV and how the device is not so effective for STD’s.

Graham said that research shows that condom use to prevent HIV is nearly 99 percent effect, when used correctly. It is only 50 percent effective for most STD/STI’s.

The ultimate key to preventing any disease or unwanted pregnancy is abstinence, say the Prevention and Wellness staff. They say they do not promote people to go out have sex just because condoms are distributed. They do so because they are the most effective against HIV contraction.

A video clip from national speaker on sex education Pam Stenzel was shown on the first day of the workshop. Participants said they enjoyed how she tackled the tough issues of sex with candor, insight, and humor and pumped each individual lady to value her body.

Stenzel shares from her own personal story and is driven to help young teens make good, healthy decisions.

One participant stated she was “wowed” by the entire workshop presentation. “I am proud of the young ones who attended. I wish we had these kinds of workshops when I was young.” She went on to say she was pregnant at 17 years old and did not have a mother was not informed on consequences of not practicing abstinence prior to marriage or protecting herself. “This should be offered in every school.”

Testing, diagnoses, treatment and follow-up are available at Tribal Health facilities according to Graham. Although a person’s sexual history is investigated – it is confidential and the person contacted by the health facility remains anonymous, she explained.

At the end of the first day one participant enthusiastically stated, “I enjoyed working along and learning with other women in the group. There is a lot of respect amongst all of us. Our dedication to learning and the instructions were fun and made it fun to learn and I think we all gained confidence in ourselves to stand up for ourselves. Also, to share with others who have not taken this course.”

For more information on the SKC Center for Prevention and Wellness contact Niki Graham or Alana Bahe at (406) 275-4926 or email and

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