By Maria Trent, MD, MPH, FAAP, FSAHM,
This year alone, there will be 20 million new cases of STDs in the U.S. While STDs can affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life, nearly half of these new cases will occur in people ages 15–24 years old. And among them, young black women and men are disproportionately impacted. In fact, some of the most common infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are at an unprecedented high, especially among young black women and men.
But here’s the thing: Chlamydia is a public health problem across the country, regardless of your race or where you live. And I’ve encountered many young people of all races who don’t think they are at risk. This trend of underestimating risk, coupled with the fact that most people won’t experience any symptoms, means STDs are continuing to spread across all our communities.
Why does that really matter to you? Some STDs can have undesirable consequences. Take chlamydia, for instance. Untreated chlamydia can put a woman at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition that can lead to tubal pregnancy, chronic pain, and even infertility.
We’ve made great strides in the way we talk about sex and sexuality since I started working in sexual health more than 20 years ago. But still, I’ve noticed that conversations about STDs and getting tested have remained in the shadows. That’s why the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), an organization I care deeply about, launched YES Means TEST, an initiative to educate and empower young people like you to get tested for STDs—because anyone saying “YES” to sexual activity, should also mean saying “YES” to getting tested.
So why wouldn’t you get tested? Let’s review and break down some of those common excuses.
- It’s too much of a hassle to get tested. I don’t have the time or the money.”
- Did you know most tests are just a quick swab or urine in a cup? And most insurance covers STD testing. Plus, there are lots of free clinics. You can find one at YESmeansTEST.org.