New Campaign Looks To End Stigma Around STD Testing
The American Sexual Health Association launched a new initiative that encourages sexually active young adults to get tested for STDs. Elements of the campaign include a new website, hashtag, and video.
Each year, there are 20 million new instances of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, and half of these affect young adults from ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, according to the American Sexual Health Association, less than 12 percent of sexually active young adults got tested for an STD in the past year.
To eliminate this disparity and normalize STD testing among adults, ASHA launched the Yes Means Test initiative. The idea is that if young adults are saying “yes” to sexual activity, they should also be saying “yes” to getting tested for STDs.
“At ASHA, we understand there are plenty of reasons young people aren’t getting tested,” said Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of ASHA, in a press release. “They’re often in denial about the risk of STDs, aren’t educated about their harmful effects, or for some reason are too embarrassed to discuss them. We’ve got to reverse that stigma so people, especially young women, feel empowered to take ownership of their sexual health.”
On the Yes Means Test website, ASHA says that “Testing for STDs is NBD” because it’s quick and painless, free or cheap since most insurance covers it, and confidential. Plus, a test is the first step toward treating an STD, and it’s better to catch STDs early—some of which can be treated with antibiotics.
“This campaign is really targeted at young people first and foremost, and more specifically at young women because of the negative consequences,” Barclay said in an interview with Associations Now. “If young women have untreated chlamydia, it can turn into pelvic inflammatory disease, which can result in them being infertile, so that’s a pretty darn serious consequence, and all they have to do is get tested and undergo a very simple treatment.”
With a new website, the hashtag #YESMeansTEST, and a video starring comedian and actress Whitney Cummings coming out later this month, ASHA is trying to get young adults to visit its online clinic locator to find their nearest low-cost testing facility.
“We worry that cost is an impediment, privacy is an impediment,” Barclay said. “We’re trying to make it just as simple as we can to get as many young people to be tested as we can. In my perfect world—I don’t live there—all sexually active young people would be getting tested at least once a year. We would love it if we could double or triple that test rate.”