Opinion

STD Awareness Month: Gonorrhea spreads in South King County | Amy Johnson

April is STD Awareness Month. Since the most common symptom of an STD is no symptom at all, it’s time to get yourself tested.

Think this doesn’t apply to you or anyone you know? Keep in mind that, according to the American Social Health Association, “by age 25, half of all youth will have acquired one or more infections. That’s more than 9 million youth with a sexually transmitted infection.”

In addition, STD rates are climbing steadily in the over-50 crowd — but because of ageism and social stigmas surrounding talking about sex and STDs with this population, it’s not on many providers’ radar screens to discuss or test.

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that right here in South King County, gonorrhea rates have risen 42 percent among heterosexuals in recent years. Plus, there are marked differences among ethnicities. African American, Native American and Latino women have significantly higher incidents of STDs than white women.

To top it off, we’re in the midst of a fiscal crisis, where our state is slashing public health budgets, and clinics are closing. This means more people with fewer resources are going untreated, or waiting until serious complications occur to get help.

In order to double check for which diseases you should get tested, be smart and use “The Check." This online tool allows you to anonymously answer questions. It then makes recommendations about what tests you might need and what behaviors you can use to be safer. You can also use the bar in the righthand column to find a health site near you to get yourself tested.

When you do see a health care provider, take this list of questions from the American Social Health Association with you:

• I want to make sure that I'm taking all of the right steps to protect myself from sexually transmitted infections. Where should I start?

• How can I talk to my partner about sexually transmitted infections? Can you give me some advice?

• I want to make sure that my partner and I get tested before we have sex. Where should I go? How can I bring up the topic with him/her?

• Given what we’ve talked about in terms of my relationship history, should I be tested for STDs/STIs? Which ones?

• How often should I be tested for STIs? Which ones?

• Are there any vaccines I should consider to protect myself from STIs? Are there vaccines that are recommended for me?

• What screenings are recommended for someone my age? (such as STI tests, mammograms, prostate cancer screening, etc.)

Let’s make it more common to get tested than to get an STD. You can help spread the word about this information and other tools listed below. Be smart. Be safe. Get yourself tested.

Resources

The Check: Available from Planned Parenthood.

Inspot: online service that allows you to send an anonymous e-card to a partner(s) to let them know they should get tested.

• GYT: A promotional campaign that stands for Get Yourself Tested, which is a joint effort between the CDC, Planned Parenthood, MTV and more. Lots of tools are available in their toolkit, including downloadable posters, website banners and widgets, buttons, t-shirts, and more.

Sex in the Suburbs Facebook Page: Look for videos, tips, and statistics this month.

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