By Jennifer Aulwes
Great cheekbones, solid abs, bedroom eyes…chlamydia-free?
Right, no one ever mentions that on their dating profile. And that might include you, too, because sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates are up in Minnesota. Again.
Chlamydia, in particular, has reached epidemic proportions over the last decade. It’s the number one reported infectious disease in Minnesota and reached a new high of 19,897 cases in 2014, up 6 percent from 2013. Rates of gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV have also risen steadily over the last ten years. This is a growing problem for every state in the nation, including Minnesota, and it’s not an urban or rural problem. STDs are equal opportunity when it comes to geography; they affect the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and the suburbs at equal rates.
What’s your status? Finding out has never been easier: pee in a cup, swab your cheek, get quick results and you’re on your way.
Everyone deserves a great sex life that’s healthy and fun. But, getting tested has to be a part of your basic preventive health care because one in every two sexually active young people in this country will have an STD by the time they are 25 — and most won’t know it. This is especially important for the GLBT community, because added to the (unnecessary) stigma that people associate with STD testing, GLBT individuals face additional barriers to accessing health care, including sexual health care.
Not OK. Untreated STDs can have serious health complications. For women, chlamydia can lead to pelvic pain and infertility. For men, untreated chlamydia can cause chronic infections in the prostate and rectum and can lead to sterility. Also, chlamydia makes it easier for men to both get HIV and give HIV. Many STDs cause no symptoms and the only way to know for sure is to get tested.
There are clinics across Minnesota that offer low- to no-cost testing, including one you might not have thought of. Planned Parenthood. Here’s a little secret: we’re not just for birth control. We provide more than 100,000 STD tests every year. The Human Rights Campaign called us a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” and — get this — we offer STD testing in clinics and online.
If you live in Minnesota, you can talk to a Planned Parenthood provider through a secure video consultation system, and then receive an STD test kit (and treatment if necessary) in the mail. It doesn’t get any more discreet than that. Most patients use the app (Planned Parenthood Care), but you can also get to them online at www.plannedparenthoodcare.org. You can also be tested at any Planned Parenthood clinic, usually for little to no cost. You can find clinic locations at www.GYTNOW.org or www.PPMNS.org.
Alongside regular testing, prevention is incredibly important. Use condoms every time. When it comes to HIV, using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer than not using a condom. (Seriously.) They’re the best protection you have against STDs.
So, prevent STDs with regular and consistent condom use and make sure to get tested any time you change partners or have unprotected sex. Don’t become a part of the growing epidemic of STDs in our state.
Take PRIDE this month — in your health, your future, your life. Get tested.