BOSTON— The fourth annual GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign kicks off National STD Awareness Month (April) with new initiatives on-air, online, and on the ground at college campuses and in more than 5,000 health centers across the nation, including here in Massachusetts.
GYT is a national campaign supported by a broad coalition of partners, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, designed to address the high rates of STDs among those under 25.
During the month of April, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) is educating patients, supporters, and community members in their seven health centers across the state, online, and at community events. Students in college chapters of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood will be educating their peers about the importance of STD testing. Planned Parenthood health centers offer low-cost STD testing throughout the year, and they welcome patients of every background.
“Lack of information, misconceptions, or social stigma keep many young people from getting tested for STDs, but people should know that testing is easier than ever before. We’re thrilled to continue our work on the GYT campaign and to give young people the resources that they need to lead safe and healthy lives,” said Dianne Luby, President and CEO of PPLM. “Getting tested is simply a basic part of staying healthy.”
STD testing is an important tool for combating high STD rates here in the Commonwealth, especially among high-risk communities. In 2009, the rate of new cases of chlamydia was 296 per 100,000 residents; the rate among Blacks and Hispanics was 19 and 14 times higher, respectively, than the rate among whites. Young people in Massachusetts are also at high risk: the rates among 15-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds were 4 and 6 times, respectively, higher than all-age rates.
GYT public service messages air throughout the year on MTV channels with cross promotions with health centers and community organizations. Extensive information resources — including a dedicated website (www.GYTnow.org), which provides basic information about common STDs, talking tips, and a zip code locator to find local testing locations — as well as a mobile testing locator, GYTNOW (498669) — provide the audience with more information. During April, the campaign scales up its presence by introducing new messaging and outreach. Some elements of this year’s national GYT campaign include:
- “Team GYT” — “Team GYT” is made up of celebrities recognizable to the GYT audience who help carry the GYT message, including: The Jersey Shore’s Vinny, rap visionary Talib Kweli, celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, America’s Best Dance Crew’s Jungle Boogie, and professional street skateboarder Stevie Williams. Team GYT will continue to grow throughout the year as new faces are added to the campaign. All will carry the GYT brand out into various aspects of youth culture, encouraging their fans and followers to know their status.
- GYT “Party” — GYT has created a new online interactive video experience to encourage conversations about STDs and testing with partners, peers, and health care providers. The video, a simulated party scene, includes five conversations among couples, peers and friends about STDs and testing and is found at http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt/talk/party. The GYT Party is filled with talking tips, an interactive quiz, key information for starting a conversation and entertaining “extra” features.
- GYT Nation — GYT is also supported by an extensive on-the-ground outreach effort taking GYT to communities across the country. GYT promotional and informational materials, including T-shirts, posters, buttons, brochures and stickers are being distributed to more than 5,000 health centers and organizations nationwide, including Planned Parenthood’s network of nearly 800 health centers and additional public and private clinics identified by the CDC. GYT is also working with state and local health departments, the National Coalition of STD Directors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and the National Assembly of School-Based Health Centers to provide young people with information about the campaign. And, the American College Health Association (ACHA) works with GYT to distribute materials through college health centers.
As many as one in two sexually active young people will contract an STD by age 25 — and most won’t know it . GYT encourages young people to talk with health care providers and partners about getting tested for STDs. According to the CDC, approximately half of the estimated 19 million STDs occurring in the United States each year are among people 25 and younger. When left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection, infertility and cancer.
During last year’s GYT campaign, Planned Parenthood health centers tested almost 125,000 men and women in April, and Planned Parenthood affiliates held 240 events with 1,250 youth volunteers, reaching 67,000 people. Data collected from 10 Planned Parenthood affiliates show that STD testing has increased significantly during the month of April since the launch of GYT in 2009. Among the 10 affiliates, there was a 51 percent increase in patients getting tested in April 2011, as compared to the same time in 2008, prior to the launch of the campaign — indicating that the campaign helped drive an increase in STD tests. Nationally, Planned Parenthood achieved especially large increases in the patients from populations most affected by STDs, including African Americans and people living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is the largest freestanding reproductive health care provider in the state. For over 80 years PPLM has protected and promoted sexual and reproductive health and freedom of choice through clinical services, education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.pplm.org.
GYT launched in 2009 as an extension of a longstanding public information partnership between MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is supported by a broad range of organizations including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), American College Health Association (ACHA), American Social Health Association (ASHA), the National Chlamydia Coalition (NCC), the CDC, and various state and local health departments, colleges and universities, and other community groups and non-profits. Gilead Sciences, Inc. provides support and resources for select elements of the campaign. CDC provided assistance to ensure scientific accuracy of GYT health information. Comprehensive informational resources — designed for Web and mobile applications — provide facts and referrals to local health centers. For more information visit www.GYTNOW.org.
April 05, 2012