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Three common STDs—chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—are surging across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Young people are especially hard-hit. In fact, because reported cases only account for a fraction of the national burden, CDC estimates 15-24-year olds account for half of all new sexually transmitted infections each year. Iowa is no exception. In 2018 alone, there were 9,345 reported cases of chlamydia (63.7% of all cases in Iowa), 1,904 (39.4%) reported cases of gonorrhea, and 21 (23%) reported cases of syphilis among this same age group.
“The consequences of STDs are especially severe for young people,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “Because chlamydia and gonorrhea often have no symptoms, many infections go undiagnosed and this can lead to lifelong repercussions for a woman’s reproductive health, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.”
Untreated STDs can also increase a person’s risk of getting HIV, or passing it to a partner if they’re living with HIV.
Early detection through testing is key to avoiding these consequences, yet research has shown many adolescents don’t talk with their providers about sexual health issues at all during annual health visits.
GYT: Get Yourself Tested
Enter GYT: Get Yourself Tested – a youth-focused campaign that encourages STD testing.
GYT helps young people understand that STD testing is quick, simple, and usually painless. It also underscores the importance of having open and honest conversations with their healthcare provider about their sexual history to ensure they get the right STD tests and other critical information about prevention.
Those who are not comfortable talking with their regular healthcare provider about STDs can access CDC’s online testing locator to find a convenient testing site that is free or low cost.
“STD testing is an important first step in preventing STDs and a vital step in an individual’s overall sexual health,” John Shaw, Prevention Services Manager at the Project of Primary Health Care said. “As simple as “Getting yourself tested” may seem, people still encounter barriers to testing and treatment that prevent them from coming in. The Prevention Team at the Project of Primary Health Care understands the barriers involved with these tests and we are dedicated in creating a free, non-judgmental and confidential testing service that caters to everyone’s unique sexual health journey. We encourage individuals to empower themselves and take control of their sexual health. It all starts with an STD test.”
Getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things a person can do to protect their health, but it’s not the only thing. There are several ways to prevent STDs. The most reliable way is to not have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal), but there are many other tried-and-true options: talking openly with partners and healthcare providers about STDs; using condoms the right way from start to finish; and reducing the number of sexual partners. Those who test positive for an STD should get treated right away – and be sure their partner is also treated to lower the risk of getting infected again.
Visit the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign website for more information on STD testing and prevention.