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?
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!
ASHA President and CEO
"India, the second most populous country in the world, accounts for 27% (77,100) of the total cervical cancer deaths.”
–From Global Cancer Statistics, published in the American Cancer Society’s journal for clinicians.
27%. More than 1 in 4. Wow.
The American Social Health Association (ASHA) wants to encourage you to get tested this month – January – or do it in your birthday month so you’ll remember!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that every year in the U.S alone there are 12,000 cases of Cervical Cancer; 4,200 of those cases result in death. Those are sad and tragic numbers that can be lowered!
That’s the message that author and advice columnist Dan Savage and many others are trying to get across to gay youth in the wake of a recent spate of suicides of gay teenagers across the country in recent weeks.
From Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, 18, who died after jumping off the George Washington Bridge, to Seth Walsh, 13, who hung himself from a tree in California, to Asher Brown, 13, who shot himself at his parent’s home in Texas, to Raymond Chase, 19, who hung himself in his dorm room at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island—the list of gay teens lost to suicide in September alone brought national attention to an ongoing problem.