The Importance of Sexually transmitted Disease Testing
Eighty percent of all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) caught in the world have no symptoms. Individuals might think that they come with warts and all, but the vast majority do not. This means that unless someone gets tested they will not know if they are infected or not. In this article, we will outline why testing is important and debunk some of the many reasons for not getting it done. There is no stigma in getting tested and in fact, as one in two young adults and teens will be infected during their lifetime, all the stigma should fall on those who practice unsafe sex and do not get tested. The importance sexually transmitted disease testing has should never be overlooked.
Dr. Akaeda, who visits nightclubs in Tokyo offering free HIV and other STD tests, has been shocked by what he has found. He gave away free STD kits to girls in those clubs according to the BBC and found an infection rate of 82%. In 2004, at the time of the report, there were officially just 6,000 HIV cases, but as sex education is poor, knowledge of STDs is even poorer and on the back of a national myth of racial purity, the actual rate of infection is bound to be far higher.
In America, there are an estimated 19 million STD cases a year excluding HIV according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). There are probably more cases, which go unnoticed. 50% of these infections involve college students. According to surveys of college students 87% of men and 60% of women know how to use a condom, but only 54% use them for vaginal sex, 29% for anal sex and just 4% for oral.
It is no surprise then that 25% of college students in America have an STD. Some of these are curable, most are treatable, but it is dangerous to ignore them, so how are they diagnosed? Some STDs produce visible symptoms. Herpes Simplex, for example, produces blisters and sores, while syphilis has a range of symptoms. Most STDs do not produce any symptoms whatsoever. There is almost no way of knowing if a person is infected with chlamydia or HIV without being tested first.
Most tests are fairly simple affairs. HIV, for example, is diagnosed by testing the blood for the HIV virus. The same goes for syphilis. Other diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are diagnosed using a swab test. Many of these tests are performed in clinics, but they can be done at home too and then posted to a clinic for testing.
Many STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis are curable. If caught early enough no permanent damage will be done. Others, such as HIV and herpes simplex are not curable, but can be manageable. HIV requires a complex range of drugs to fight the retrovirus and halt its progress through the body. Not treating the disease hastens the onset of AIDs and death. Syphilis is cured using a penicillin programme. With regards to herpes, the symptoms can be managed, but the infection will always remain.
Challenging STD Testing Stigma
There are many reasons for not getting tested, but no excuses. Ignorance and stigma are the dominant reasons behind not getting tested. A lack of education at school and within the family leads to ignorance. A surprisingly large number of people do not know about STDs and protected sex. 40% of women and 13% of men do not know how to use a condom. Clearly a large proportion of people still do not realise that anal sex is more likely to lead to an STD infection than any other kind. This is shown by 71% of American college students do not use protection when practising it.
Stigma is harder to fight than ignorance. There is not just a stigma in many communities about having an STD, but also about getting tested and even in some communities, about using condoms at all. There should be no stigma in getting tested. In fact, people who do test themselves should be commended.
When a person thinks about STDs it is important for them to consider about two factors. First, they should think about their own health. On balanced thought there are few people who will want to get warts, to ooze an unpleasant substance, become infertile, blind or demented. People also do not want to die. Yet, it is clear from the statistics and from anecdotal evidence that a significant proportion across the world would rather avoid the stigma of being tested than look after their own health.
STDs are rarely about just one individual. As the cliche says; it takes two to tango. STDs may not spread as quickly as the common cold, but spread they do. Syphilis used to be restricted to Mesoamerica, but Columbus’ crew brought it back with them and now it can be found right across the world. If a person has an invisible disease and they keep having unprotected sex, or even giving and receiving oral without protection, there is a high likelihood they will pass it on to someone else. The moral judgment would be that the person has a responsibility to take a test and then to tell their partners if the test comes back positive.
Cultural Stigmas and STDs
Why do people not use condoms? It may be down to laziness or to a lack of preparedness on the part of both parties. Many just do not think at the time and then have to deal with the repercussions. In certain cultures and groups, there is also an aversion to condoms. Reading many women’s advice sites will find common threads along this theme; what to do when a man will not wear a condom.
Looking across the pond for some data, the BBC has reported clear differences between different groups within Britain, but any discussion on why infection rates vary so differently between them has been stymied by fears of being labelled racist. Statistics from 2003 show that black men and women in the country are 11 times more likely to have gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Interviews with black women have shown that many men refuse to wear condoms. The Afro-Caribbean community has statistically been shown to have the highest number of broken families and infidelity; though they should be separated from the African community, which has ones of the lowest. Low condom use, high infidelity, and a macho culture are a recipe for high STD rates. Similar findings have been found in African-American communities in America. The same factors are present in Japan and other countries, so it should not be limited to just one community. Let’s also not forget that the Catholic Church preaches against condoms.
Growing STD rates are a ticking time bomb across the world. We have already seen the devastation that can be caused by HIV in the 20th and 21st centuries. Earlier there were massive outbreaks of STDs such as syphilis, while they were noted and given euphemisms galore, they caused untold damage across the planet. With a highly global culture, people travelling all over the place, increased sexual freedom and the potential for STDs to mutate, it is more important than ever to raise awareness about testing.
STD Testing at Home
While it is usually easiest to be tested for an STD at a clinic or by visiting a doctor, this is not always possible. Even when people attend such clinics anonymously, without warning friends and family or in an area different to where they life, there is still an acute feeling of embarrassment. This is part of the stigma against STD testing. It does not have to be this way.
If it is not possible to make an appointment with an out of town clinic, there are many ways to do a home test. Now, many are not necessarily backed by the CDC in America or the NHS in Britain, but they do offer a way around the problem. For example, it is possible for people to buy home testing kits in shops and to take the test at home. The HIV test involves pricking a small amount of blood from the finger and then blotting it on a piece of testing paper provided with the kit. This sample is then sent to a laboratory. This makes the STD test private and it makes it discreet.
Like with major clinics, when the testing laboratory get back to the person who submitted their test and as well as informing the person of the test result, they will offer counselling and advice on what to do next.
Take an STD Test
Fighting STDs also means fighting stigmas. By being tested and encouraging others to get tested, people are raising awareness of the issues and are setting a positive example. It’s also been found that laughter improve sex life difficulties. There needs to be a sea change in opinions about STD tests that make them the manly option and that ignoring such things is the cowardly option.
Testing is just the first step on the rung to addressing the STD problem. It also highlights the social and health problems related to sexually transmitted diseases and makes it easier cure those who are infected. It also allows people to feel calmer about themselves when they find out that they are healthy. Testing will always remain important, but it should be combined with proper sex education in schools that demonstrates the results of not being tested, of burying the head in the sand and thinking it is a problem that other people have. Raising awareness, promoting safe sex and fighting stigmas must go hand in hand with testing for STDs. Those who take Viagra should still remember safe sex practices since it doesn’t protect from STDs or pregnancy.