Why Everyone Should Get Tested

[The following post is courtesy of Vanessa Cullins, M.D., Vice President of Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood. If anyone knows anything about the importance of testing and sexual health, it is Dr. Cullins.]

Here’s a disturbing tidbit:  A U.S. government study found that an average of 14 percent of college women become infected with a human papilloma virus (HPV) each year. At the end of a three-year study, 43 percent of college women were infected.  Why should you care?  Because in some cases HPV can lead to cancer. To avoid HPV infection, girls and women should be vaccinated with Gardasil, which prevents infection of the types of HPV that cause 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer in the U.S.

Here’s another: An estimated 19 million Americans are infected with a new sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year and, by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young people will contract an STD. In fact, at least one in four teenage girls already has an STD.

STDs continue to pose a serious public health threat in this country, particularly to young women, who are more vulnerable to infection than men, due to biological factors.

Because many STDs do not cause any symptoms — and most doctors do not automatically test for STDs — many women and men may not even realize that they are infected and at risk of spreading the infection to their partners.

Yet, without treatment, STDs can lead to serious short- and long-term health consequences, including infertility. Some untreated STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, with the potential for other serious health problems. Others, like HIV, permanently jeopardize a person’s health and can kill.

STDs are preventable, treatable, and in some instances, curable. Women and men should minimize their STD risk by practicing safer sex. The use of condoms significantly reduces the risk of contracting an STD during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Monogamy is better than latex but it only works if both partners are uninfected and both remain committed to monogamy — the problem with relying on monogamy is that one can only be sure of one’s own behavior.

Regular STD testing is critical. Health care authorities suggest that young, sexually active women and men be screened annually for the most dangerous and common sexually transmitted infections: HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, if rates of gonorrhea are high in your community. Your local Planned Parenthood health care provider can talk with you about STDs and help you get the testing or treatment you may need. Visit www.plannedparenthood.org to locate your nearest health center. Or visit http://gyt09.org to learn about the “Get Yourself Tested” campaign, a partnership between Planned Parenthood, MTV, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Denial and embarrassment are the two most dangerous risks to your sexual health. Both can keep you from getting tests and treatment.  This is the real deal:  All sexually active people are at risk for getting STDs — no matter how faithful, how clean, or how cool you may be.  So don’t let denial or shame jeopardize your health.  Practice safer sex, and get checked out every year to make sure you can enjoy your sex life for many more years to come, in addition to ensuring that you and your partner can experience pregnancy when the time is right.

Everything You Need to Know About STD Tests
Everything You Need to Know About STD Tests
  • 10614935101348454