By Molly Boxrud and Amber Greek, Disease Intervention Specialists with Springfield-Greene County Health
The landscape of dating and sex has changed significantly in the 21st century. As our technology has evolved, so have the ways people communicate and meet. Dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr allow users to meet people outside of their existing social networks, either to form relationships or just for sex. These apps make it easier for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to spread between groups of people that may not have had contact without them.
Since the way that people meet has changed, our strategies to prevent STIs had to change too. Earlier this month, our Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) program launched to combat the spread of STIs in Greene County, specifically syphilis and HIV.
Prior to this launch, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MO DHSS) was responsible for reaching out to people who tested positive for an STI, helping ensure their partners were tested and connecting anyone that needed it with treatment. While that program still exists at MO DHSS, this role in Greene County will now be fulfilled by Springfield-Greene County Health and our DIS team. This expands the capacity available to address the high STI prevalence rate in Greene County — a rate that is higher than in Missouri and across the county, according to the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment.
To combat this disparity, our team plans to use the very tools that change the ways that STIs spread to reach out to people who may have been affected, provide education, and connect people with testing and treatment resources. If you’re in Greene County and using sites like Facebook and Snapchat or dating apps like Tinder and Grinder, you might see one of our promotions for free STI testing and treatment.
You may also see profiles for one of us that we can use to reach out to folks on the app that we’ve identified as having had contact with someone who has tested positive for an STI. These communications are confidential, and our intention is not to interrogate you on the number of partners you’ve had. In fact, we will only use these platforms to reach out and request that you contact us over the phone. Our goal is to connect you with testing, treatment and to make sure that anyone else who may have contracted an STI gets the services they need to stay healthy and prevent the spread of these infections.
Offline, you may see the third member of our team, a Community Health Advocate (CHA), at local community events and resource centers. The CHA will provide information on local resources, education on STI prevention, and is working toward offering health assessments to refer people to other healthcare and social services they may need.
This approach to treating and preventing sexually transmitted infections has been successful in other communities. We are excited to be a part of a team that values innovation and allows us to try new approaches to accomplish our department’s vision to help all people live longer, happier and healthier lives.
Molly Boxrud graduated from Drury University with a degree in biology and minors in psychology, sociology, and community health. Previously, she held internships at Springfield-Greene County Health. Molly enjoys the outdoors, local music, and playing ultimate frisbee!
Amber Greek joined Springfield-Greene County Health in 2022 after a 20-year career as a Registered Dental Hygienist. She began as a Communicable Disease Control Specialist and worked with the COVID-19 Outreach team before moving to the DIS program. Amber’s passion for helping people led her to obtain her Master’s in Education Human Services from Drury University in 2014. Amber lives in Republic with her husband and two children.