Monday, February 14 2011

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STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) tests are there to protect us and the people we care about, so why is no-one getting tested?

It’s date night, and you’re about to head out to meet up with that special someone. Sex is something that’s definitely on the cards, and you want to make sure you’re prepared. So you scamper into the bathroom, give yourself a last look over in the mirror, and check your pockets for the essentials.

  • Condoms? Check.
  • Lube? Check.

But when was the last time you had an STI test?

Hi, my name’s Alex. I’m a peer educator for YEP Crew, I’m 20 years old, and I’ve been tested for STIs. But you know what? A lot of my friends haven’t.

STI testing is something that’s really important when you’re thinking about your health and the health of your sexual partners, but it’s something that nobody talks about it. Despite the fact that going to the doctor for a check-up, the dentist for a filling or the optometrist for an eye test is something most people do regularly, STI testing has a reputation of being something only promiscuous people need to do, and by young people especially is seen as totally embarrassing.

Let’s face it: STI testing has a bad reputation, which it doesn’t deserve. And as a result, people aren’t getting tested.

Am I really at risk of contracting an STI?

The short answer is yes. Unfortunately, while less than one in ten young people think they’re at risk of contracting an STI, there were over 62,000 new reported cases of Chlamydia in Australia in 20101. And it’s young people who are most at risk: four out of five cases are people who are aged between 15 and 29 years.  That means that over 50 000 young people were diagnosed with Chlamydia in a year!

The reasons for the high rates of STI transmission among young people seem to be a combination of a few things. These include wanting to take risks, having shorter relationships and social stuff like peer pressure and drinking alcohol 2.

Why should I get tested?

People often only get an STI test when they’ve got symptoms of an STI, like a rash or a weird discharge. But a lot of STIs have no symptoms, and besides, there are heaps of reasons to get an STI test, including:

  1. If you think you might have an STI
  2. If you’ve ever had unprotected sex (in other words, without a condom or dental dam), which includes anal, vaginal and oral sex
  3. If someone you’ve had sex with tells you they have an STI
  4. If you’ve had a condom break or fall off during sex
  5. If you have multiple/casual sexual partners
  6. If your boyfriend or girlfriend have had or have other sexual partners
  7. If you’ve just got a new boyfriend or girlfriend

 

But even if none of these apply to you, the fact is that STI testing should be a part of every sexually active person’s regular health check-up. Condoms aren’t always completely effective, so it’s important to get tested at least once a year and every three months if you have multiple partners. Plus the majority of STIs are easily treatable if they’re caught early, and even if they’re not curable (like HIV) it’s always better to find out as early as possible. This way, you’re able to start treatment earlier, and you aren’t putting others at risk.

So, despite STI testing’s bad reputation, getting tested is actually an awesome thing to do to protect not just yourself, but your sexual partners as well! It’s quick, easy, and you’re putting both your mind and your partner’s at ease.

Where do I go to get tested for STIs?

So poor STI tests have been getting a bad rap for some time, and it’s about time it changed! This week (14 – 20 February 2011) is Sexual Health Awareness Week, and it’s time to get tested. It’s time for a call to action!
Together we can help to lessen the stigma around getting tested for STIs. If you live in WA, one way to get tested, is to log on to Could I Have It and fill out an online form. Then all you have to do is take the form to a Pathswest centre and pee in a cup.
STI testing is, literally, a piece of piss!

And once you’ve done it, you can let everyone know by changing your display picture on Facebook using the images below and link back to this blog post! Also make sure you link up with the YEP Crew and join in on taking action, by liking us on Facebook.

What else can I do to change people’s opinion of STI testing?

Is getting tested not enough? Do you want to keep raising awareness? Here are some other things you can do to help reduce the stigmas around STI testing!

  1. Organise a regular testing day for you, your friends and your boyfriend or girlfriend to go get tested for STIs!
  2. Make or find posters to print out which encourage young people to get tested for STIs (try contacting your local Family Planning service) and put them up at your work or school.
  3. Talk to your teachers or employers about other things you can do, like showing a video on STI testing at an assembly or inviting an organization to speak at your school.
  4. Have a conversation with your friends and family about getting tested. If your friends haven’t been tested for STIs and are sexually active, encourage them to do so!

 

Have you got any other ideas on how to encourage your peers to get tested for STIs? Do you have any questions about what’s involved in STI testing? Do you want to keep talking about testing? Have your say in the comments below!

STI Testing Pics

Here are the pictures which you can add to your Facebook page. To Save Right Click and Save Image As.

To Find out more about STI’s explore Tune In Not Out’s STI topic page with great videos and factsheet information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YEP (Youth Educating Peers) Crew is a WA-based group of young people who aim to address the issue of STIs and BBVs (Blood-Borne Viruses) in the community by actively engaging with young people and encouraging them to make safer and informed choices. They educate young people through a range of activities, from designing resources (check them out here!), running campaigns and competitions, doing outreach at events and schools, and engaging young people online through Facebook and other websites like Reachout and TINO. You can learn more about them by liking them on Facebook!

References

1. National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2010. HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2010.

2. Commonwealth Australia 2010. Second National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2010 – 2013.

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