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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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Turn Female Sexual Dissatisfaction into Satisfaction!

Mar 22, 2011 | Sexual Health |Women's Health | Comments (0)
Women, where do you turn when you know something is off “down there?” You may have thoughts such as, “I’m too embarrassed to talk to my doctor.” “Maybe this is normal. It’ll go away.” You’re not alone.

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Sex education: How young is too young?

Jul 1, 2010 | Sexual Health |Sex ed |Adolescent health | Comments (0)
A somewhat controversial article was published in the UK last week. According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in London and Manchester, children as young as five years old should be taught about sex—and not just sex but the “value of ‘mutually rewarding sexual relationships’” says Jimmy Kilpatrick from EducationNews.org.

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National HIV Testing Day

Jun 22, 2010 | STDs/STIs |Sexual Health | Comments (0)

National HIV Testing Day is June 27th.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are over 1 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS, about a quarter of whom don’t know they’re infected. Think about that: 1 in 4 Americans living with HIV have no clue. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are among those at greatest risk: although MSM represent only approximately 2% of the US population, they have an HIV diagnosis rate more than 44 times that of other men, and more than 40 times that of women! How’s that for a cold, hard fact?

Social factors also cause poor and disadvantaged communities to be hit especially hard by the HIV epidemic. While some groups are impacted more than others (including blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos), HIV affects people from all backgrounds. Anyone who is, or has been, sexually active can be at risk.

It is important that you talk with your health care provider about testing for HIV. Your health care provider can guide you through the testing process and tell you what you need to know. You can find a health care clinic near you by clicking here. To learn more about HIV visit our HIV pages.

Get tested and know your status!

~Connie A.


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Sex and the Senior Set

May 21, 2010 | STDs/STIs |Sexual Health | Comments (0)
The notion that older people have sex lives isn’t as quaint or as easily dismissed as in years past, I believe. The age of Viagra® allows countless men to stand at attention and report for duty even as they qualify for the senior menu at most any chain restaurant. Then there’s the phenomenon of “cougars” – older women hooking up with younger guys – that has such cultural cache its spawned everything from television shows to niche online dating sites. The idea that “40 is the new 30” has been stretched to the point that even those in their sixth and seventh decades look, feel, and act “younger” than in generations past.

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