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    DHMH, City help sponsor Baltimore Youth Sexual Health Conference
    Summit aims to persuade youths to get tested for HIV/STIs, make safe choices
    BALTIMORE, MD (June 16, 2015) -- The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) joins the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore City Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative-Know What U Want, U Choose (knowwhatuwant.org), and The After-School Institute (TASI) in sponsoring the 2015 Youth Sexual Health Conference at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys in Baltimore on Thursday, June 18.
    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) often have no obvious symptoms, and many, including human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV) are treatable. According to Jeffrey Hitt, Director of the DHMH Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau, “this year’s Youth Sexual Health Conference comes at a time when early testing for HIV and early use of appropriate treatments are helping people with HIV control their infections, live longer and reduce the spread of the virus.” Hitt strongly encourages “youths 13 and older to participate and take advantage of the free STI and HIV testing offered during this year’s conference.”
    “The voices of Baltimore City youth are vitally important in shaping the city’s movement to promote sexual health among this population,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “Sexual health is not just an individual not having a sexually transmitted disease or a teen who isn’t pregnant, but rather is a philosophy that embraces a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships.”
    This year’s conference will feature youth-focused and youth-led workshops, free HIV- and STI-counseling and testing services, various health exhibits, educational workshops and special
    entertainment. While the conference targets youths and peer educators ages 14 through 24, limited space is available to youth service providers, educators and parents. A special closing session on youths and police relations also will be offered with Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Russell leading the dialogue.
    Approximately half of the 20 million STI cases reported in the United States each year occur in teens and young adults ages 15 through 24. Viral STIs including HIV are treatable, while several bacterial STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are curable. In 2012, one out of every 50 Maryland teenagers ages 15 through 19 was diagnosed with chlamydia, and one out of every 250 Maryland youths ages 15 through 19 was diagnosed with gonorrhea. During the same year, 1,381 youths ages 13 through 24 were living with HIV.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers are more likely than others to not know their HIV status; therefore, HIV and STI prevention education for youths remains a top public health priority. Youths need to know that practicing abstinence, using condoms and not sharing needles can prevent STIs and HIV, and that sexually active individuals should be tested for STIs and HIV.
    The 2015 Youth Sexual Health Conference creates an opportunity for participants to network and to learn about best practices in HIV and STI prevention, as well as other issues that impact youth.
    Community service hours, service learning hours, giveaways, raffle items and awards for talent show winners will be provided. The conference is free, but registration through TASI is required for all attendees. To register call 410-580-0750, email atillery@afterschoolinstitute.org, or visit https://www.afterschoolinstitute.org.
    For more information on:
    The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the state government agency that protects Maryland’s public health and also works to help Marylanders make better health decisions for better health outcomes. Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH and www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH.