Did you know that half of all sexually active young people in the U.S. will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by the time they're 25 — and that most won't even know it? Or that young people account for one quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S. each year?
This April, STD Awareness Month, the most important part of the month isn't avoiding pranks or getting caught in April showers, it's encouraging young people to educate themselves on STDs and to get themselves tested.
Everyone deserves a sex life that is safe and healthy. Many sexually active people may not realize that getting tested is part of basic preventive health care and can actually help improve their sex lives. The fact is that STDs impact young people the hardest. Half of the estimated 20 million sexually transmitted diseases in this country each year are in people under 25, although they represent only one quarter of people having sex.
A few things young people should know about getting tested and STDs:
Getting yourself tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. STDs, if not treated, can lead to serious health outcomes such as increased risk of cervical cancer and infertility.
Getting tested is easy, quick, and painless. For example, rapid HIV tests can provide results in 20 minutes from just a swab in the mouth. For other tests, all you have to do is urinate in a cup. No needles necessary.
The good news is that most STDs, including HIV, are treatable, and many are curable. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can get treated. Not all medical checkups include STD testing — so unless you ask to be tested, don't assume you were the last time you saw your doctor.
You can't tell by looking at someone if they have an STD. Many STDs cause no symptoms. For example, 70 to 95 percent of women and 90 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. On average, people with HIV don't develop symptoms for 10 years. The only way to know your status for sure is to get tested.
Getting tested is important no matter who you are or where you live. Unfortunately, because of health inequities, some communities are harder hit by STDs than others. African Americans and Latinos account for dramatically disproportionate rates of new HIV infections. For African American women, the rate of new HIV infections is 20 times higher than that for white women. For Latinos, the rate is more than four times higher than that of white women. Overall in the U.S., men who have sex with men have the highest rates of HIV nationwide. Our health shouldn't depend on who we are or where we live— access to quality health care, resources, and information is a fundamental right for all people to reach their fullest potential.
This April, spread the word that STD testing should be a routine part of your health care checkups, especially if you're a sexually active young person. It's one of the easiest and most important things you can do to protect your health. .
Carol Lemus, Director, Education & Training, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic
April 10, 2015
April 13, 2015