This Thursday, April 29, is Connecticut College’s annual Get Yourself Tested (GYT) day. From 9-5pm students can go to the Student Health Center and get tested for gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV for free.
GYT Day is a collaboration between the Office of Student Wellness, Student Health Services and the State of Connecticut. The GYT campaign started last year at Connecticut College.
According to Director of Health and Wellness CC Curtiss, “The program went so well last year that the state decided to continue funding it for college campuses.”
On a national scale, Planned Parenthood, MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have joined together during the month of April, National STD Awareness Month, to promote STD testing. Approximately 19 million new cases of preventable STDs occur every year in the United States. The GYT campaign urges that we spread awareness that a simple test can protect our health and even save lives.
Curtiss said, “The event de-stigmatizes STD/HIV testing, eliminates any financial barriers and promotes sexual health.”
So where does this stigma come from? One student spoke frankly, saying that talking about STDs is a really uncomfortable subject that people try to avoid constantly.
“No one wants to talk about STDs, which is a huge problem. You should be able to say to whomever you’re having sex with, ‘look I have this, and we need to be safe.’ But no one says that because they don’t want to be embarrassed.”
According to the CDC, sexually transmitted diseases pose a serious public health threat in the United States, particularly to women and young people. STDs also disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics in comparison to whites. Accordingly, approximately one in two sexually active young people will contract an STD by age 25, and most will be unaware of it. The consequences can be serious; chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, are the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States, and if left untreated, can lead to infertility.
Curtiss reminds that, “There are amazing resources at the Student Health Center; we want to encourage students to take charge of their sexual health and not wait for a health care provider to start the conversation.”
GYT stands for Get Yourself Tested and Get Yourself Talking to remove the stigma of talking about STDs with your partner, your healthcare provider and your parents. This stigma, coupled with costs, fear of a positive result, fear of needles associated with testing, and confidentiality are all reasons people choose not to get tested. However, testing is easy and painless, and there are no needles involved. All STDs are treatable, all results are confidential and it’s free.
One female student who chose to remain anonymous said that, “Get Yourself Talking is maybe one of the most vital aspects of this kind of campaign because the stigma that surrounds STDs inhibits people from talking about them and really perpetuates the spread of STDs. If people were more comfortable and could talk more freely about it, people could be more careful and aware.”
In addition to GYT Day, another anonymous student suggested, “Having panels or workshops that address this issue, or a lecturer that will make people more comfortable would help de-stigmatize talking about STDs.” However she thinks GYT day is a good start, “It’s good to just promote and have signs around for people to see. This is something that is important to talk about and GYT day reaffirms that.”