Many Young Women Aren't Being Tested For STDs For A Depressing Reason, Science Says

The way I see it, being sexually active is just part of being human (if you choose to partake in sex, that is). That being said, with it comes responsibility. Yes, we are capable of being sexually active, but we also have to do so in a safe manner. This includes but isn't limited to respecting our partners, using condoms with partners, and regularly getting tested. Unfortunately, a new study found that we may be failing on one of these responsibilities, as lots of young women aren't being tested for STDs.

The new study conducted by Quest Diagnostics revealed some troubling news. Apparently, young women aren't having a whole lot of open and honest communication with their doctors regarding sexual health, especially when it comes to STDs. Moreover, the study found that many of these young women also aren't being tested for STDs. So, is it really that big of a coincidence that STD rates are currently at a record high, according to the study? I'd venture to say no.

In fact, the study attributed the infrequency in STD testing and the subsequent rise in STD rates potentially to this lack of communication between doctors and patients. If you, like me, are wondering what the deal is and why this dangerous lack of communication is taking place between health care professionals and their patients, the answer is pretty sad. Based on their survey, the researchers found that the lack of communication may be a result of stigma around and false beliefs about STD risks. Yep, it's 2018, and this is still something we have to deal with.

The researchers made this discovery when analyzing the results of a survey they designed to examine how people in different social categories perceived sexual health and STDs. Within the survey, people (young women between 15 and 24, moms with kids around that age, primary care physicians, OB-GYNs, and other sexual health doctors) were asked about sexual activity, sexual health and how much they knew about STDs and screening for them.

The survey found that 56 percent of young women are sexually active. Of these sexually active young women, 56 percent of them have been tested. Of the sexually active women who weren't tested, an overwhelming 62 percent of them said they didn't feel at risk of an STD (with 86 percent saying specifically they weren't at risk for chlamydia and 88 percent saying they weren't at risk for gonorrhea). Even more, 55 percent said they didn't get tested because they didn't have symptoms.

There are SO many problems with just those findings alone. For starters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly states that “STDs do not always cause symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it.” So, the whole "not getting tested because you don't think you have anything" is a big issue. While most of us would hope that a doctor would urge a sexually active patient to get tested, despite a lack of symptoms, the survey found that that's unfortunately not always be the case. Researchers found that a third of doctors only rely on symptoms to diagnose an STD. Furthermore, a quarter of them will ignore the CDC guidelines if they feel that their patient isn't displaying any symptoms, according to Teen Vogue. Yeah, troubling stuff.

Now let's address the whole "I don't think I'm at risk for STDs, so I'm not going to get tested" debacle. According to the CDC, sexually active people under the age of 25 should be getting tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other STDs at least once a year... whether or not they think they have one. Unfortunately, based on the fact that almost half of STD cases occur in young adults and that STD cases are at an all-time high, it looks like this definitely isn't happening as often as it should.

Let's dive even deeper into why all of this might be happening. An extremely significant 51 percent (that's over half!!!) of young women surveyed admitted they don't want to bring up the topic of sex with their physicians, according to Teen Vogue. What's worse is that almost a third of them (27 percent) admitted to sometimes lying about their sexual history to their doctors. This number gets even higher amongst teens, with 43 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds saying they sometimes fudge the truth about their sexual history to doctors.

The most troubling part of it all, as far as I'm concerned, is that almost half (49 percent, to be exact) of the young ladies surveyed don't remember their doctor ever asking them if they want to be tested for STDs. If you're thinking to yourself, "Well, who cares? The girls will probably just ask the doctor if they want a test," think again. The survey found that less than a quarter of young women doing the deed have asked doctors to test them for STDs.

“We know that people often think of STIs as something that happens ‘to others’ and, frequently, health care providers have similar beliefs and don’t view their patients as being at risk,” Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association said in a statement. “Testing is crucial in young women because STIs are very common, often without symptoms, and undetected infections like chlamydia can lead to problems including infertility."

While most of us would hope that doctors would understand how vital it is for everyone to get tested, unfortunately not all doctors are living up to our expectations. The stigma isn't quite as large within the medical community, but it is unfortunately still very much present. The study's results found that 24 percent of primary care doctors said they weren't comfortable talking to female patients about sex-related risks. If young women can't rely on their doctors to openly and honestly give them information about sexual health, whom can they depend on?

Obviously, the stigma surrounding STDs isn't going to go away overnight. But what we have to understand is that this stigma is harming people indirectly. Consider using resources from places like Planned Parenthood to educate not only yourself, but also your friends and family, about the importance of taking care of and control over your sexual health.

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