Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 3: STD Testing

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.

What is a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? It’s an infection that you receive or transmit through unprotected sexual contact. It can happen with one encounter or with multiple partners. Sometimes people say, “I’m a virgin, how can I get an STD?” These infectious diseases may be transmitted to another person through kissing or direct skin-to-skin contact, as well as bodily fluids such as blood, semen, or vaginal and cervical secretions.

More than half of us will have an STD at some point.

There’s no doubt about it, sexually transmitted diseases are a risk for anyone who is sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 19 million new infections reported each year, and almost half of them are among young people ages 15 to 24. The Guttmacher Institute states that by the age of 17, most teens have had intercourse (vaginal sex). Arizona Department of Health reports show that our rates of chlamydia are increasing and gonorrhea and syphilis rates are remaining fairly steady, especially among teens and young adults. The American Social Health Association says that more than half of all people will contract an STD at some point in their lives.

Left untreated, STDs can create health problems for those infected. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, increased chances of tubal pregnancies, and chronic pelvic pain. In the worst-case scenario, these infections can lead to permanent infertility.

Sometimes you have no symptoms. Or, you may feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed if you think you are infected. But don’t let that stop you from taking action. STDs do not go away on their own and most are easily treated with medication. So what to do?

Here are some basic facts you should know:

  • Every state allows minors to consent to STD testing without parental involvement, though some states require the minor be above a certain age, usually 12 or 14. In Arizona, minors may consent to STD services without parental involvement, and physicians are not allowed to inform parents. Policies in other states may vary, and laws can change over time, so if you’re not sure, ask.
  • Just because you had a pelvic exam or doctor’s physical, it does not mean you have been tested. You must ask for an STD test.
  • No one test will check for all STDs. Discuss with your health-care provider about what test you may need. This will be based on your sexual history (be truthful) and physical symptoms. Sometimes the doctor will examine you physically, or you may need to have a blood test, urine sample, or swab of saliva or discharge.
  • It is possible to have more than one STD at a time.
  • Your partner(s) may also need to be treated.
  • Self-diagnoses via the Internet may cause more anxiety and delay your treatment. See a health care provider such as a doctor or nurse practitioner. Health centers like Planned Parenthood can provide appointments with health care providers and get you tested.
  • Learn safe-sex practices, which we will discuss in an upcoming article.

Planned Parenthood’s website contains more information about STDs and where to get tested or treated. STD screening is one of the many services that Planned Parenthood offers. You can make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center, where our health care providers can give you professional and nonjudgmental screening and treatment. This month, Planned Parenthood Arizona is offering coupons for discounted STD screening in observance of STD Awareness Month. April is the perfect time to GYT – Get Yourself Talking, Get Yourself Tested.