STD Engage

DIS Reflections from STD Engage Conference

Jan 22, 2021 | Guest Author, Shalesha Majors

After the STD Engage 2020 Conference hosted in December, NACCHO talked with participant Feliece Carabello about her experiences at the conference. Feliece is a DIS from Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center and was one of our DIS Engage scholarship winners from STD Engage 2020.

Q: What did you enjoy most about STD Engage?

A: “I really enjoyed learning about the latest information and updates about sexually transmitted infections, COVID-19 and increasing capacity to reduce the burden of STIs and End the HIV Epidemic. It was very interesting to hear about how other DIS have adjusted their process and the impact COVID-19 has had on the day to operations, working individually with clients and the impact of the team environment.”

Q: Share how COVID-19 has impacted DIS work.

A: “COVID-19 has impacted DIS work because we had to adjust the day to day operations with services and working with clients. Working together in the office as a team has changed for all of us, we work on alternating schedules, sometimes at other sites or remotely. We all took on extra responsibilities, we suspended field visits for a time when COVID-19 started. I did data entry for COVID-19 cases and managed the data integrity team. We implemented telehealth visits and would meet people outside by their car when people came to pick up supplies, whether it was safer sex supplies or syringe support services. We did everything we could to minimize exposure. Staff always utilized masks daily. Staff practiced social distancing with extra handwashing and sanitizing with every person, including team members. The great thing is STI services were never impacted. STI clinic services were always available, since COVID-19 began. Telehealth appointments were given to our asymptomatic patients. Our HIV services prioritized a patients’ immune health, what they were coming to the doctor for and the options were an in-person visit or a telehealth visit. We changed how we communicated because our questions with all client visits and included questions and education about COVID-19. How we educate people who use substances and/or safer sex practices now include risk/harm reduction for COVID-19.”

Q: Name one thing you wish everyone knew about DIS.

“How important partner services is and how each contact is an opportunity to educate and plant a seed.”

Q: What’s your favorite STD and why?

“My favorite STI is Hepatitis C (HCV) because for a long-time people did not know much about it. I have organized annual HCV awareness events every year, since 2008. This is probably the 1st year I was not able to put on an event due to COVID-19 restrictions. I collaborate with 8-12 community partners annually to offer a holistic approach to liver health and awareness by offering a variety of other services. I would educate people about prevention, care and treatment of HCV. I would try to link them with appointments, substance treatment referrals, and individual risk/harm reduction education and many other community referrals. I provided lots of education about general liver health and wellness, so that people would understand the importance of liver health. I am so excited about all the pharmaceutical breakthroughs for HCV treatment. There are many medications to treat HCV and cure it. We started HCV treatment and case management services at our Lake County Health Department and since 2017, we have cured more than 100 people of HCV. We are still actively treating people in our community even with COVID-19. It is so gratifying to be able to tell someone they are cured, and they no longer have HCV, after they have lived with it for many years.”

Q: What is one thing you learned from the conference sessions or your peers that you can take back to your clinic and/or DIS in your district?

“One thing I want to take back to my peers and implement is diagnosis and management of Mycoplasma Genitalium infections. I think it is important because I believe it is very common and leads to a lot of frequent STI clinic visits. Mycoplasma Genitalium is an emergent infection which requires sequential treatment with multiple medications. It was helpful to learn about testing for Mycoplasma Genitalium.”

Learn more about the STD Engage 2020 conference and its host, the National Coalition of STD Directors, on the conference website. Many thanks to NCSD for continuing to support the DIS Scholarship program! Check back in fall 2021 to learn how to apply to future conference scholarships.

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About Guest Author

NACCHO periodically invites guest authors to write first-person accounts of their work in public health. To submit your own story for consideration, please visit our form.

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About Shalesha Majors

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