Like it or not, sex is everywhere. It’s on your favorite television show, it’s in ads for your favorite product, it is even in your favorite book turned summer blockbuster. Despite the fact that sex is so pervasive in our culture, we actually talk about it very little, especially about sexually transmitted diseases.
That lack of candid conversations about STDs and what one can do to avoid them has led to a public-health concern across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all sexually active young people will contract an STD by the time they are 25. Unfortunately, many people won’t know it because of the social stigma placed on testing and other barriers such as not knowing where to go to get tested, financial concerns and fear or embarrassment.
At Planned Parenthood, we know firsthand that the consequences of contracting an STD can be serious if left untreated. STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection, infertility and cancer. According to the CDC, the under-25 age group represents half of the estimated 19 million sexually transmit ted infections that occur in the United States each year, even though they represent only 25 percent of the sexually active population.
The good news is that through education and testing, STDs are preventable and treatable. For this reason, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has deemed STDs one of the state’s “10 Winnable Battles.” A 2010 report from the CDC ranks Colorado 28th in the nation for chlamydia infections and 35th for gonorrhea infections.
This April – STD Awareness Month – Planned Parenthood joined with MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the CDC in the fourth annual GYT – get yourself tested – campaign.
The GYT campaign is meant to get people talking about STDs – talking to their partner, health-care provider and for young people, their parents. It also aims to normalize testing and make it a part of routine health care – especially for people who are sexually active.
But at Planned Parenthood, we don’t believe STD awareness should be limited to the month of April. We think it should be year-round because sexually transmitted diseases don’t have a peak season.
So GYT: Get yourself talking and get yourself tested. Unless you’ve had the conversation with your health-care provider – you cannot assume you have been tested because it is typically not a part of most exams. Not all STDs come with symptoms, and sometimes STDs can pass through skin-to-skin contact, so getting tested is the only way to be sure you’re STD free. For tips about how to start this conversation with your partner or doctor, visit www.itsyoursexlife.com.
Getting tested is a basic part of staying healthy and should be considered routine health care for people who are sexually active. Testing has advanced in recent years; rapid HIV tests can provide results in as little as 10 minutes from just a finger prick.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is proud to be the nonprofit health-care provider for more than 120,000 people in our four-state region. Last year alone, It provided nearly 58,000 STD tests, and every day we work to keep the communities we serve healthy. Our doors are open to everyone.
Sharon Ames is the Health Center Manager for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, 46 Suttle Street in Durango. Reach her at 247-3002.