April is STD Awareness Month in the states, and advocates for safe sex and healthy sexuality are coming together to help you get tested, stay infection-free, have open conversations about sexual health — and feel proud about it.
Big names like MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supporting this national movement with the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign to inform young people about STDs, encourage and normalize testing for them, and connect young people to testing centers.
You've certainly heard it before and more than once: Wear a condom. Get tested. Don't have unprotected sex with your hot one night stand, no matter how much better it feels, even if he, on the off chance, has his latest STD results in-hand. It's really not worth the risk.
STD infection can seem like one of those things that'll never happen to you — sort of like actually getting caught for texting in the car, or worse, getting into an accident because of it. You're smarter than that, right?
Yes, you're smart. But even if equipped with the latest research findings and best in-bed practices, we can all make mistakes, especially if under the influence of dinner's delicious bottle of wine and the cocktails that followed.
Here's the scary part (thanks to the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
An estimated 19 million new sexually transmitted infections are occurring every year in the United States.
Both rates and consequences of chlamydia and gonorrhea — among the most serious and preventable threats to women's fertility — are far more severe among women than men.
The economic impact of STDs is substantial, with an estimated cost of $15.9 billion annually to the U.S. health care system.
Plus, 1 in 2 sexually active young people will get one by age 25 — most of them without knowing it. Ouch.
It's probably been a while since you've been in a sex ed classroom or otherwise faced the reality of STD prevalence in your peer group. It's not something we talk about in everyday conversation. It's up there with abortions, rape and violence in that sectioned off category of things we avoid bringing up at nearly all costs.
That avoidance, however, is one of the driving motivations behind the nation's STD awareness campaign. We need to make both testing and talking about testing (with both partners and healthcare providers) a standard occurrence.
The bottom line? It's time to get yourself tested and talking. And here are some resources to help you do just that.
Have a question that you're too embarrassed or nervous to ask a professional? Check out San Francisco Sex Information's list of FAQs. They might have the answers you're looking for.
How much do you know about STDs? Find out with the American Social Health Association's quiz.
Not sure how to approach your partner — casual or committed — about their and your sexual health? Here are some tips for talking about it.
Listen to this CDC podcast that focuses on chlamydia, its severe health consequences for women if left untreated, and the importance of annual chlamydia screening.
Find a testing center near you, make an appointment, and get tested! Some local clinics may even be offering discounted or free testing services in honor of the month's campaign. tSTD.org also offers seven STD tests in one visit for $250 — quickly, conveniently, privately, and without judgment or embarrassment.
"We know STD prevention efforts are cost-effective yet often underused," says Dr. Kevin Fenton, a director at NCHHSTP. "For example, a 2006 Partnership for Prevention study evaluated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of 30 clinical preventive services and found that chlamydia screening was among the most highly valued but underutilized services."
Ladies, use them! That's why they're there.
Spread the word (not the disease)
Get your community involved. This GYT toolkit and the CDC's resource section will give you a number of materials you can download, print or embed to help you promote awareness in your social networks and communities — from online to on the ground.
For more from Anna, you can check out her magnificent personal blog, TallAnna.com or follow her on Twitter as @tallanna.
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