Tag Archives: std testing

Why Young People Should Still See a Gynecologist Before Their First Pap Smear

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Many people now know the new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend pap smears until the age of 21. This can be a bit confusing and frustrating for parents and teens that still have sexual and reproductive health care needs and are unsure if they should visit a gynecologist or sexual and reproductive healthcare provider (SRHP) who specializes in this area.

Here are some of the most common reasons young people should go to a SRHP.

STDs – Many young people and their partners need to be tested or treated for STDs. They may also want to talk to their parent/guardian and their medical provider to determine if they should receive the Human Papilloma Vaccine. The Gardasil Vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12. The vaccine is recommended for people ages 9 to 26. According to Merck pharmaceuticals, the Gardasil vaccine helps protect against 4 types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, 70% of vaginal cancer cases, and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases. In males and females ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against about 80% of anal cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases.

Vaginal Infections – Infections can occur at any time during our lives and many times have nothing to do with whether we are sexually active (i.e. urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, folliculitis).

Menstruation – Some teens have irregular periods, PMS, painful cramps or heavy bleeding that keeps them home from school or work, acne or other medical conditions like endometriosis or abnormally large ovarian cysts that may require medication, procedures, or an office visit.

Birth Control – A sexual and reproductive health care provider can discuss the benefits and potential side effects of each birth control method and help the patient determine which method is best for them.

Pregnancy – Young people can receive pregnancy tests, options counseling, and preconception health if someone is planning to become pregnant in the future.

Safer Sex – Education can empower people to make safer choices and know their risks if and when they decide to be sexually active.

LGBTQ Health Concerns – Specific information can be given on how to be safer with a partner, medical concerns that impact LGBTQ individuals and referrals to additional resources.

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So You’re LBGT, Why is STD Testing Important?

Today’s guest writer, “Deeds,” is a Masters of Public Health student (with a concentration in health education) and has BA in exercise science. Some of her areas of interest are body image, sexual health, and LGBT issues.

Hello there friends of the rainbow!

cake Continue reading

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Chlamydia 101: A Refresher Course on a Common STI!

gytEveryone here at the Feronia project cares a great deal about sexual health. Why else would we spend time writing about it if we didn’t!? We try to give you as much information as possible about current issues, new findings, and exciting research. However, sometimes it’s important to get back to basics. Recently, I was talking with a friend of ours at the Feronia Project about Chlamydia, and she highlighted how important it was that we keep everyone informed about the infection! So today, we’re doing some Chlamydia 101, and giving you all the info you need to know about this sexually transmitted infection!

What is Chlamydia?

It’s a common STI that can infect anyone who is sexual active. It can be spread through sexual contact, and no ejaculation has to occur for it to be spread! Chlamydia can also be transmitted through childbirth. While chlamydia can be easily treated if it is detected early enough, there can be serious long lasting damage if an infection is left for too long without being treated. These long term consequences include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. Check out this CDC fact sheet to find out more.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

When symptoms of chlamydia are present, they can include abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal and penile discharge, low grade fever, swelling inside the vagina, swelling around the anus, painful or burning urination, and swollen testicles. However, it is important to note that MANY people are asymptomatic, or have symptoms so mild that they do not notice them. According to Planned Parenthood, three out of four women with chlamydia have no symptoms, while half of men have no symptoms.

What should you do?

The first thing you can do is get tested, and make sure you have a regular testing schedule. If at risk, people between the ages of 15 and 24 should get tested yearly, while those 25 and older should be screened with each new sexual partner that they have. Additionally, you need to use a barrier method (like condoms) to help prevent the spread of this infection. While abstinence is absolutely the best method to prevent any STI transmission, the next best thing that you can do is use a barrier method. Condoms are very effective at reducing the spread of chlamydia, but it is important to use them during ALL sexual acts where transmission is possible, such as anal, vaginal, and oral sex. Condoms which are effective against STD transmission include latex condoms (the most common kind), as well as polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms. Lambskin condoms are not as effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases, and should only be relied upon for pregnancy prevention.

So that’s the 411 on chlamydia! It’s important to always use a barrier method and to get tested regularly, particularly because chlamydia can often leave people without symptoms despite causing damage later! If you have chlamydia, it’s important to not engage in ANY sexual contact until you have completed your treatment, even if you are using a condom! Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with chlamydia it is important that you tell any partners that you may have infected. It might be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but there is a good chance they won’t know otherwise!

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STD Testing During Pregnancy

cdcSo you just found out you or your partner is pregnant. There are so many things to think about, but one thing many people never think about is getting tested for STDs. Most prenatal visits include testing but it’s also important for a new or old partner to be tested so infections are not spread to mom during her pregnancy. To varying degrees, all infections have the potential to affect a developing fetus. Knowing what tests to ask for depend on risk factors such as age, number of partners, use of condoms or barriers, possible exposure and drug use. Here are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 STD Testing Guidelines:

Chlamydia 

Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; 3rd trimester rescreen if younger than 25 years of age and/or high risk group.

Gonorrhea 

Screen all pregnant women at risk at first prenatal visit; 3rd trimester rescreen women at continued high risk. Risk factors include: young women aged 25 years or younger, living in a high morbidity area, previous GC infection, other STDs, new or multiple sex partners, inconsistent condom use, commercial sex work, and/or drug use.

Syphilis

Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; during 3rd trimester rescreen women who are at high risk for syphilis or who live in areas with high numbers of syphilis cases, and/or those who were not previously tested or had a positive test in the first trimester.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Test pregnant women who have symptoms or are at high risk for preterm labor.

Trichomoniasis 

Test pregnant women with symptoms.

Herpes (HSV)

Test pregnant women with symptoms.

HIV 

Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; rescreening in the third trimester recommended for women at high risk for getting HIV infection.

Hepatitis B

Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit: retest those who were not screened prenatally, those who engage in behaviors that put them at high risk for infection and those with signs or symptoms of hepatitis at the time of admission to the hospital for delivery. Risk factors include: having had more than one sex partner in the previous six months, evaluation or treatment for an STD, recent or current injection-drug use, and an HBsAg-positive sex partner.

Human Papillomavirus

There is not enough evidence to make a recommendation.

Hepatitis C 

All pregnant women at high risk should be tested at first prenatal visit.

To find out more information about STDs during pregnancy, visit the CDC website.

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Everyone Loses When a Health Department Falsifies STD Records

When you get tested for an STD, the results are always confidential, and sometimes anonymous. If you test positive, most Health Departments have a program that will notify your past sexual partners that they might be at risk WITHOUT revealing your identity. Afterall, one of those past sexual partners is the one that gave you the infection. Tracking down past sexual partners can be difficult work, but it is important work especially considering the asymptomatic nature of most STDs. Many people pass on STDs because they didn’t know they were infected in the first place.

Syphilis bacteria

Syphilis bacteria

Syphilis was nearly eliminated in the not-to-distant past, but it is on the rise again. Considering this news, it is even more inexcusable that the Dallas County Health Department falsified numbers in the syphilis notification program in order to meet state goals. Investigators found the workers took names of people who tested negative and listed them as past sexual contacts in the files of people who tested positive for syphilis. This made it look like they had identified the person’s past contacts, but really the names they were inserting in the files had nothing to do with the person who tested positive.

Shuffling names around is one thing, but not properly tracking down and notifying the people that had potential exposure to syphilis spells big trouble for that community and beyond. STDs are a mobile as their hosts so the Dallas County Health Department didn’t just do their county a disservice, they’ve wronged us all.

Apparently, the movitvation for falsifying the records was so the Health Department could access federal dollars. And it seems this particular Health Department has a record for fudging the numbers. In 2008, former Dallas County employees were complaining they were told to falsify data for AIDS patients in order to keep federal dollars flowing.

Syphilis is curable, but when left untreated, has serious consequences. You can reduce your risk of syphilis infection by:

  • reducing number of sexual partners
  • always using barrier protection such as condoms and dental dams
  • getting tested regularly

Syphilis testing involves either a blood draw or drawing fluid from a syphilis sore. You can do an internet search for the Health Department near you or you can find the closest Planned Parenthood. We assure you that most STD testing sites do not fudge such important information.

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“But What Will They Think!?”: A Note About Overcoming Appointment Fears

In my time working at Planned Parenthood, I’ve noticed that a lot of people come into their appointments somewhat nervous. This is totally understandable! Some people are worried about the outcome of a test, others might have painful symptoms they need to get checked, others may be anxious about trying a new form of birth control. Everyone comes in feeling some kind of emotion. Just remember, whatever emotion you are feeling is probably something that many other people have experienced!

Nervous_woman-315x305One thing that does make me concerned is when individuals express concern to me about what our health center staff will think about them. It makes sense that patients are concerned about this – sometimes it can feel like sexuality and the choices we make regarding sex are constantly judged! However, it is important to keep in mind that health care professionals have seen a whole range of people, and have experience with a large variety health issues. It’s also important to remember that the staff members you are dealing with are adults, and have dealt with their own range of reproductive and sexual health issues personally. You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or scared for taking care of your own sexual health, and it is the job of the staff at the health center to treat you with respect and compassion!

If you’re feeling exceptionally nervous or scared, please let your health care professional know. They aren’t mind readers. Express your concerns and ask questions! We’ll take extra time to make sure you go home feeling confident.

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STD Testing on College Campuses

fgcuThis month, Florida Gulf Coast University students had the opportunity to receive free STD testing on campus! A civic engagement class was required to do something for their community and they found that the most creative and beneficial thing for their students was to provide this service. They spent their entire semester organizing a student-led concert that allowed for students to feel more comfortable with the idea of getting tested. With the help of FGCU’s Gay Straight Alliance, the Lee County Health Department, and Planned Parenthood students were able to learn about various STDs as well as get tested for free, watch some FGCU talent, and enjoy free food.

There is a stigma, especially on college campuses about getting tested. When promoting the event, students would say that they don’t need to be tested, make a slut-shaming joke, or simply laugh it off. But as the event drew closer, the group saw that students were ecstatic about this opportunity. There were well over 100 students tested and lines were so long that they had to be cut off a half an hour early! The turn out was definitely not expected but it was welcomed with open arms.

FGCU is a fairly small campus in Florida with about 13,000 students and with such a successful turnout for its first year, this event will be passed on to the FGCU Gay Straight Alliance to be put on next year. It’s an event that college campuses around the state would find not only helpful to students but one of the best events to be part of behind the scenes. Reports of STD cases have been increasing slightly over the passed 10 years, especially among college age students in the state of Florida. By removing the stigma and having someone like a Planned Parenthood educator attend the event, students get a better understanding of these diseases and infections which will further help reduce their risk.

If a college wants to put on this event, they need only to look to what may be the most unlikely source, MTV. The MTV It’s Your (Sex) Life campaign provides a full toolkit for students to put on an event like this. This toolkit was actually used by the FGCU group to help get their event off the ground.

To see this event become a regular thing across campuses in the state of Florida would bring benefits to not only students but to the entire state by improving our state’s level of sex education and infection rates.

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