STD tests are easy to access, confidential, and free or low-cost. So, what is stopping half of young people (15-25) from getting tested?
For many, bringing up STDs with a partner is considered so “awkward” that half of people just aren't doing it, and when it is discussed between partners, a common question to ask is “are you clean?” Unfortunately, this choice of language serves to reinforce the stigma around STDs, since the alternative to “clean” is “dirty.”
Disclosing one’s status is difficult enough without the added feelings of shame that an STD stigma can cause. The idea that people with STDs are undesirable can have a profound emotional impact on people diagnosed with an STD, which can further discourage people from getting tested and treated.
Planned Parenthood believes that STD stigma is curable. Make sure you have the facts and skip the jokes, disgust, and other negative reactions.
2. Concerns about Confidentiality of Care
A quarter of young people forego STD testing because they worry about the confidentiality of the testing. With more young people staying on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26, many fear their parents will be alerted of any health services they receive. And for those without insurance, cost can present a real barrier to care.
The health and safety of patients is the number one concern for medical providers. Planned Parenthood is committed to protecting patient privacy. If a patient with health insurance is concerned about their family finding out about their visit, they can make a Confidential Communications Request which their health insurance provider must honor.
3. Concerns about Cost and Lack of Access to Care
For many young people, concerns about cost and access to health care prevent regular STD testing. Moreover, the CDC reports that there are inequities in rates of STDs along racial lines due to poverty, income disparities, job availability, and education levels. For many of those who face inequities in access to medical care, Planned Parenthood is the only source of healthcare.
Our health centers are able to offer care to those without insurance free of charge or on a sliding scale depending on income. And, despite recent efforts of the Trump-Pence administration to curtail access to sexual health care1, Planned Parenthood is fighting strongly on behalf of patients to make health care not just available, but affordable and accessible to everyone.
4. Lack of Education and Misunderstanding of Risk
Our public school sex education programs are failing us. An article from the Journal of Adolescent Health goes so far as to call abstinence-only education not only ineffective, but also unethical. Without the information and skills necessary for teens to understand the risk of STDs, the available precautions, and the necessity of STD testing, rates of STDs will continue to climb every year. And, because many STDs do not present with symptoms, the lack of effective and accurate sex education leads to a misunderstanding of the serious risk that STDs can pose. This is especially true for women who are more often asymptomatic.
Planned Parenthood is committed to helping young people get the tools they need to stay safe and healthy. As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood works in schools and communities across the country to provide education programs and outreach, reaching over 1 million people a year.
At Planned Parenthood, we encourage everyone to Get Yourself Tested, and not just during STD awareness month. Our doors are open to everyone all year. We believe that all people deserve high-quality, affordable health care and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health information, no matter who they are, where they live, or where they’re from. Make an appointment today at one of the Planned Parenthood South Atlantic health centers.
1Recently, the Trump-Pence administration released a final gag rule that would dismantle Title X –– the nation’s dedicated birth control and reproductive health program. Title X is meant to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet can still access basic care, such as STD testing and treatment, at places like Planned Parenthood health centers.
A new report by amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research highlights how the gag rule will severely affect access to HIV testing and treatment, along with other preventative health services offered by the Title X program. Populations at the highest risk of acquiring HIV, including sexually active adolescents and young adults, Black and Latina women, and transgender people, will be hardest hit, especially people with intersecting identities.