Chicago, IL — To help reduce the alarming rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people, Planned Parenthood of Illinois alongside the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS), the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCPDPH) will provide free rapid HIV testing as well as give away vouchers for free and low-cost rapid HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea testing during Hopeless Record’s Take Action Tour concert at Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) on Sunday, May 22.
The mobile awareness event is part of STD awareness and prevention activities being held across the country during the annual GYT — Get Yourself Tested — campaign. Now in its third year, the award-winning GYT campaign is a partnership between Planned Parenthood, MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fans attending the Take Action Tour concert — headlined by indie bands Silverstein, Bayside, Polar Bear Club, The Swellers and Texas in July — will be able to receive a limited number of vouchers that can be redeemed for quick, painless STD tests performed at the local Planned Parenthood health center. Concert goers who visit the mobile testing van will also be able to pick up free condoms, STD prevention information, T-shirts and buttons.
As many as one in two sexually active young people will contract an STD by age 25 — and most won’t know it. Illinois has some of the highest STD ranks in the country. According to a CDC study, Illinois ranks 7th among 50 states in syphilis and chlamydia cases, and 11th among 50 states in gonorrhea cases. The GYT campaign is focusing this year on getting sexually active Americans under age 25 to embrace STD testing as part of a healthy, productive life. According to the CDC, this age group represents half of the estimated 19 million sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States each year. When left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection, infertility and cancer.
“With this mobile awareness event, we’re going to young people and educating them to the fact that STD testing is a simple, quick process that should be a normal part of their health care,” says Kai Tao, associate medical director for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “We want them to know that Planned Parenthood is here to provide them with high-quality, affordable care.”
“We are committed to helping young folks be more aware of testing options in the community,” said Dr. Terry Mason, M.D., F.A.C.S., interim CEO, Cook County Health and Hospitals System. “We are also providing the first Fast Track Screening (FTS) service, at the Fantus Health Center designed for adolescents (aged 15-24) to get in and get screened quickly.”
“GYT is about creating a youthful and empowering social movement that encourages people to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. We know that the GYT campaign works,” said Dr. Ashlesha Patel, senior director of research for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and director of Family Planning Services at Cook County Health & Hospitals System. “We are committed to increasing the number of young people who get tested again this year. The good news is that testing for many STDs is simple, it doesn’t hurt, and we will have results very quickly.”
The mobile awareness event is made possible in part by the donation of rapid HIV test kits from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). “It is a privilege for AIDS Healthcare Foundation to team with Planned Parenthood and respected local partners on this GYT campaign effort,” said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, senior director of AHF’s Public Health Division. “We believe this awareness effort along with access to free and low-cost testing will raise critical awareness of HIV testing.”
Data collected from 10 Planned Parenthood affiliates show that STD testing has increased sharply since the launch of GYT in 2008. From 2008 to 2010, the number of patients tested in those 10 affiliates’ two dozen health centers rose by an average of 71–72 percent among women and 65 percent among men. Nationally, Planned Parenthood has achieved especially large increases in the populations most affected by STDs, including African Americans and people living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.