According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in two sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by age 25. Yet, very few young people have been tested in the past year.
That is why the American Sexual Health Association recently launched the “YES Means TEST” initiative to inform and empower young adults who choose to say “YES” to sexual activity to also choose to say “YES” to getting tested for STIs.
The American Sexual Health Association kicked off the campaign in April with a video focused on normalizing STIs, thanks to media and entertainment company SoulPancake and comedian/actress Whitney Cummings. The video features Cummings driving a smoothie truck onto a college campus to creatively deceive students into participating in an important conversation on STI testing as a normal part of sexual activity.
Cummings quickly learned that most young people avoid getting tested because they are worried about what other people might say of think.
“Some of the students I talked to said, ‘I’m worried other people are going to see me there [at a campus sexual health center] and think I have something,'” Cummings told Refinery29.
Young women were particularly concerned that getting tested would make them seem like “sluts” or imply that they were “dirty” in some way. The young men that Cummings spoke with were also concerned with their image, but they seemed to feel more invulnerable about their risk of contracting an STI.
“I get it. STDs carry a stigma among young people, and so many of them ignore the topic because they’re ashamed or afraid of what people will think if they test positive,” Cummings said to ASHA. “But this generation has become so outspoken about other important topics related to sexuality, so why not STDs? I want to remind people that getting tested for STDs should go hand in hand with making the choice to have sex.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are most prevalent among young people and they often show no symptoms. People could have an STI and never know it, which is what makes testing so crucial. If they go undetected and are not treated properly, STIs can cause serious health consequences including chronic pain and infertility. The “YES Means TEST” campaign was specifically designed to encourage women between the ages of 18 and 24 who are sexually active to get tested for STIs regularly.
There is nothing shameful in getting tested. In fact, a key component of happy and healthy success involves openly discussing STIs and getting tested with sexual partners.