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Putting Sex into STD Prevention

Sep 10, 2012 | Sexual Health |STDs/STIs | Comments (0)

One evening, during the week of the 2001 ISSTDR meeting in Berlin, I met with a couple of colleagues for beers after the day’s proceedings. We lamented the fact that the focus of these types of conferences was always on disease and that a broader sexuality frame work was missing. “It is time to put sex into STD prevention”, one of my colleagues said.  The comment was a bit wistful at the time and I don’t think any of us could have foreseen that a decade later our field is expressing so much more interest in sexuality and sexual health.


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Turning the Tide on HIV

Aug 3, 2012 | STDs/STIs |Sexual Health |Sex ed |Condoms |HIV | Comments (4)
Reports of dramatic decline in sexual risks among black youth is certainly news that brings cheer and deserves universal appreciation. The advances made by a community that has been disproportionately affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS are certainly encouraging. The data covering 1991 to 2011 was presented by Dr Laura Kann, Ph.D., Chief, Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the XIX International AIDS Conference held on July 25, 2012, at Washington, D.C.

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Sex and the (Elder) City

Jul 20, 2012 | General |STDs/STIs |Sexual Health | Comments (4)

Recently, 74-year-old icon Jane Fonda stirred up the imagination of her ardent admirers as she admitted in an interview that she ‘never had such a fulfilling sex life’ as she has now. Looking through the hourglass of time, this statement by the twice Academy award winning American actress challenges established myths and demolishes preconceived notions about indulgence in sex by seniors.


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Health care savings–at what cost?

Jun 24, 2011 | STDs/STIs |Sexual Health | Comments (1)
A recent piece in the Huffington Post profiled a young man named Greg Hartman. While Hartman was working his way through college in Manitowoc, WI, he learned that a close friend had been infected with hepatitis C. Hartman thought about getting tested as himself, but with his restaurant job only pulling in about $150 a week, he couldn’t afford the $300 for testing. Instead, he went to the University of Wisconsin’s campus health center and applied for BadgerCare, Wisconsin’s Medicaid-funded family planning program, which reimburses low-income individuals for preventative reproductive health needs, such as STI testing and birth control. Hartman was then able to get tested for both hepatitis C and HIV, and tested positive for the former. Without affordable medical coverage like BadgerCare, Hartman notes, he wouldn’t have bothered to get tested.

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STI Awareness Month: Talk the Talk and Pee in a Cup

Apr 5, 2011 | General |STDs/STIs |Sexual Health |Reproductive health | Comments (0)

Some time ago I wrote a short letter that cheekily called on more people to “pee in a cup” (primarily to test for chlamydia). I pointed out that – along with lack of health insurance – social barriers like stigma and lack of awareness keep many individuals from seeking the sexual healthcare they need.

I’ve been asked a number of times just what I meant by “social barriers” to healthcare, and how in the world does stigma really keep someone from entering a clinic?

To be sure, there are plenty of reasons we might put off seeking any sort of clinic visit; images of cold instruments and sharp needles are hardly inviting. Think of how often we avoid going to the dentist or getting a flu shot…

With care related to sexual health, you have all that plus the fact you’re dealing with issues “down there.” It can be difficult to even talk about such things, and the worry that we might get unwanted news or perhaps even be judged as “dirty” can no doubt keep us out of the clinic. It’s not just patients who get caught up in this, either; healthcare providers are not immune from being uncomfortable when it comes to S-E-X. Also, we (and our providers) may simply think STIs happen only to other people, and we aren’t at risk.

That mix of detriments at least partly explains why screening rates for infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV remain less than optimal. We can do better.

The impact of STIs is no small matter. There are an estimated 19 million new cases each year, most of which don’t involve tell-tale signs. Testing is crucial: For example, HIV treatment regimens work better when started early, and untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility in women (and sometimes does a number on males, too).

But how do we “normalize” sexual health and related care?

  • A start is to support and encourage providers to follow guidelines that bring STI testing and prevention into routine care. This involves annual chlamydia testing for all sexually active females under age 26 and giving HPV and hepatitis B vaccines to all adolescents and young adults. Making this all “routine” also changes the mindset about sexual healthcare.
  • Patients also have responsibilities to know what they need and to insist on it. Your clinician has never brought up STI and HIV testing? You do it. Are you (or your child) in the age group for which HPV vaccines are approved? Ask for them.
  • Parents who might understandably cringe at the thought of their teens becoming sexually active should be gently reminded that, yes, your kids have hormones and the correct body parts to do the deed…and they will. Talk to them about how to resist pressure to have sex before they’re ready, but also teach them how to protect themselves.

I want to hear your thoughts, too. What do you think we can do to get past the awkwardness that often tags along with any discussion of sex and reproductive health? How do we talk to parents, teens, health professionals, and patients? What would YOU like to learn about? Contact us!

Stay healthy!

–Lynn Barclay
ASHA President and CEO


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