Home > Catching up with Valerie A. Stallworth, MPH HIV/STD Program Manager, Allegheny County Health Department

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Bio:  Valerie A. Stallworth, MPH – HIV/STD Program Manager, Allegheny County Health Department

Valerie Stallworth became the HIV/STD Program Manager for the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) in 2015. She oversees all clinic and prevention activities of the HIV/STD program. Throughout her career, Mrs. Stallworth has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, federal institutions, and local clinics in a variety of roles to promote and encourage HIV/STD testing with marginalized populations. Her focus has been reducing barriers that prevent key subgroups access to testing and HIV medical care. While working with the VA Research Foundation (VARF), Mrs. Stallworth was the evaluation coordinator where she assessed medical and mental health services housed together within homeless shelters and drop-in centers in Pittsburgh. This program demonstrated the importance of tailoring other objectives to meet the needs of marginalized populations and the importance of creating a space within the community that is patient-centered.

Mrs. Stallworth attended the University of Pittsburgh where she earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in African Studies/Pre-Medicine. She continues to develop innovative strategies and build relationships with community organizations to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable populations in Allegheny County.  (click image to enlarge)

·        Who should get tested for HIV and STDs?

o   According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), anyone between 13 -64 should be tested at least once a year for HIV.

o   Anyone sexually active should be tested for Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

o   Anyone engaging in behaviors such as anal sex, sharing needles, infrequent use of condoms, or engaging in sexual activity while under the influence or other behaviors that put them at higher risk for HIV or STDs should get tested every 3 to 6 months. 

o   Pregnant women should be tested for HIV and STDs during first prenatal period and follow-up visits as needed.

·        Can you tell us more about your new clinic?

o   Our clinic moved from our long-time location in Oakland to the Hill District in February of 2018. We are now at 1908 Wylie Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. We offer free and confidential walk-in HIV and STD testing to anyone 13 years and older. Our clinic provides free treatments for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis infections. Our program also refers all patients newly diagnosed with HIV to providers.

o   No insurance and no appointments are needed to receive clinical services.

o   Our hours of operation are on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 8:00 am-3:30 pm, and Wednesday evening hours 12:00 pm -7:30 pm. Please bring a photo identification card (i.e. valid license, passport, etc.,).

·        What do you think prevents people from getting tested for HIV and STDs?

o   Many people have no symptoms; therefore, they feel no need get tested for HIV and STDs. A person can have HIV and STDs for years and not know it.

o   Many people do not know where to go for testing. Testing and treatment for most STDs are available at our clinic and other locations in Allegheny County.

o   Many people fear embarrassment. No one should feel embarrassed since many people have been exposed to an STD in their lifetime without knowing it. STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis are treatable with antibiotics. As for HIV, we have great medical providers in Allegheny County that offer comprehensive care and resources for people living with HIV.

o   Many people have confidentiality concerns. Our clinic is confidential, which means that only our providers know you received services at our clinic.  

o   Many people cannot afford to pay for a copay, tests, or treatment. Usually insurance will cover costs for people under 25 years or those with symptoms. Our clinic provides free and confidential HIV and STD testing for anyone over 13 years of age. We offer free medication for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis. All patients diagnosed with HIV are referred to medical providers within the community.

·        What are the MYTHS of HIV/STDs?

o   People still think that they can tell if they have HIV or an STD. Many STDs are asymptomatic therefore many people are unaware of their infection. Also, there is no “look” as to who has HIV or an STD. No one is immune to these infections.

o   Using two condoms will add extra protection. Doubling up on condom usage will not prevent you from getting HIV or STDs. The friction between the two condoms could increase the chances of the condom breaking or leaking. In this case, less is more. Use one condom every time you engage in intercourse.

o   If my partner pulls out I will not get an STD. STDs such as Syphilis (visible sore), Herpes, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can be contracted based on skin to skin contact which does not always include penetration.

o   Only gays or drug users get HIV or STDs. Even though some groups are disproportionately affected by these infections, anyone engaging in unprotected sexual activity is at risk of getting HIV or an STD. 

o   All STDs are symptomatic. Around 80% of people that have an STD show no symptoms. The only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested.

o   You can catch HIV or STDs from toilet seats. Bacteria and viruses that cause STDs typically do not live outside the body for very long. There hasn’t been a study that shows that urine or fecal matter from a toilet seat has been the cause of an STD. However, pubic lice, known as “crabs” can be transmitted through surfaces like toilet seats.

o   A person cannot get STDs from oral sex. STDs can be transmitted via semen, blood, or genital contact. If you can get a STD infection on your genitals they can also be transmitted orally.

·        I heard that there are medications that can prevent me from getting HIV, is that true?

o   Yes, the Centers for Disease and Control recommends the following biomedical interventions:

§  Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication taken daily to reduce a person’s chances of getting HIV. Research has shown that people who take PrEP daily decrease their chances of getting HIV by 92%. There are many PrEP providers in Allegheny County that provide PrEP and resources for paying for this medication if uninsured. 

§  Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking medicines very soon after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent becoming infected with HIV. For example, if a condom broke during sex a person could take PEP within 72 hours (3 days) of their exposure to reduce their chances of getting HIV. The sooner you start PEP after a possible HIV exposure, the better. 

§  Our clinic does not provide PrEP or PEP, but individuals can visit Preppgh.com to learn where to get PrEP and PEP in your area.

·        If I am HIV positive, are there clinics where I can receive affordable HIV medical care

o   Yes. Living with HIV and maintaining your care is very important. In Allegheny County, there is a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP), and other private clinics that offer care for those underinsured and uninsured. Taking your HIV medication as prescribed will reduce the amount of virus in your body making it very hard to transmit the disease to your current or future partners. For more information about the location and services provided at these clinics please visit our webpage: www.achd.net/std

·        Are there any other services you offer through your program?

o   Our HIV/STD program also provides free HIV/STD education to community groups and agencies. 

o   We also have a Condom Distribution Program (CDP) where we distribute free male and female condoms, lubricant, and dental dams to organizations throughout the community. 

o   We also provide a voluntary service called Partner Services. Many times, people find it difficult to disclose their status to their sexual partners. Therefore, we have staff that can confidentially inform your sexual partners of their exposure and encourage them to come in for free testing and treatment.

·       How can I reduce my risk of getting HIV and STDs?

o   Do not share needles

o   Use condoms consistently and correctly

o   Reduce the number of people with whom you have sex

o   Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex

o   Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs and HIV

o   Talk to your healthcare provider and find out if PrEP is a good option for you to prevent HIV infection

o   If you think you have been exposed to HIV, talk to your healthcare provider about taking PEP

·        What would be your take home message for anyone reading this interview?

o   If you are sexually active, get tested! For more information, call (412) 578-8081 or visit our website www.achd.net/std







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