STI Awareness Month

April is STI Awareness Month, but in 2022, the topic of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remains taboo for many, causing embarrassment or shame. This is particularly pronounced among LGBTQ individuals, who encounter extra stigmas and hurdles in accessing culturally sensitive healthcare. However, it's crucial to understand that regular testing for STDs is essential for sexual and reproductive health, especially for those in the LGBTQ community LGBTQ individuals are disproportionately impacted by various STDs, including HIV/AIDS.

At PrEP2Me, we want to emphasize that discussing and undergoing STI (Sexually transmitted infection) testing is not just beneficial—it's essential for your well-being and community health. Here are five compelling reasons to consider STD testing this month, especially if you're looking forward to Pride celebrations in June!

1. STIs are common, and they're on the rise.

With more education and resources available for testing and treatment, you'd think fewer people would be diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections these days. Unfortunately, the opposite is true: STI cases are on the rise in the United States, and diseases that previously had low rates of infection are making a resurgence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 2.5 million new cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis reported in 2019. Syphilis was thought to be eradicated in the U.S. a decade ago, but rates have skyrocketed in recent years, with most cases affecting men who have sex with men (MSM). Syphilis testing is simple, fast, and affordable, and in its early stages, the infection can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. However, if left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious (and irreversible) health complications, and can even be fatal. Getting tested and detecting these infections early can both improve your treatment outcomes and prevent you from the long-term consequences of living with an undiagnosed STI.   

2. STIs can have serious consequences if left untreated.

Continuing our discussion, it's crucial to understand that sexually transmitted infections and STIs can lead to severe health consequences if left untreated, affecting both your own health and that of your partners. Beyond syphilis, other STIs, such as HIV, can be deadly if not identified and managed promptly. Without timely intervention, HIV can progress to AIDS, which, despite advancements in HIV/AIDS treatment, remains a significant threat to life. Moreover, certain STIs like the human papillomavirus (HPV) can greatly increase the risk of cancer if they remain undetected.

3. You might not even know you have an STI.

Many individuals may unknowingly carry a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because these infections often do not show clear symptoms in their early stages. Common STDs that may go unnoticed initially can include those transmitted through oral sex, highlighting the importance of awareness in all aspects of sexual health. As the disease progresses, symptoms might emerge, making treatment more challenging. This situation poses a risk not only to the individual but also to their future sexual partners. Regular testing is crucial for disease control, allowing for early treatment and enabling honest conversations with current or potential partners about sexual health risks. Without regular screenings, STDs, including those contracted through oral sex, can be unwittingly transmitted to others. Therefore, getting tested is the only way to confirm your health status and take responsible steps toward disease control and prevention.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): HPV is the most common STI in the United States, and it often doesn't cause any symptoms. In fact, up to 90% of people who have HPV don't know it.

Chlamydia: Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in the United States, and it often doesn't cause any symptoms either.

Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is also a highly common STI, and it often doesn't cause any symptoms in the early stages.

4. You need to be tested to start PrEP.

A message we repeat often: if you're sexually active with multiple partners, engage in anal or vaginal and anal sex, considering intimacy with a partner who is HIV-positive, or have encounters that increase your risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, you should consider [PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)]( PrEP is a preventative medication that is 99% effective against HIV transmission. However, eligibility for PrEP requires an initial HIV and other STI screening because it's only effective for those not already infected with HIV. If you're already HIV-positive, PrEP won't be beneficial and may lead to additional health issues.

5. STI testing near you is easier than ever.

In the past, STI testing has been considered something like a 'walk of shame,' and nobody wanted to be seen at the STI clinic. Now, stigmas are being challenged, and a non-judgmental atmosphere can be expected both inside and outside the waiting room. Compassionate, culturally competent walk-in STI clinics and online resources alike are here to provide you with a quick, simple, affordable, and respectful experience. Don’t forget – getting tested isn’t just necessary, it’s responsible and considerate of your current and future partners! No matter where you get tested, it's important that you get tested on a regular basis (at least once a year). If you're about to start PrEP with PrEP2Me, we'll send you an at-home STI testing kit as the first step toward getting your prescription. If you’re seeking a non-judgmental, highly competent in-person STI screening near you in Western Pennsylvania or Ohio, reach out to the team at Central Outreach Wellness Center, and we’ll help you get the testing you need. Get started today with PrEP2Me, where we make it easy and accessible to stay protected!