Campaign encourages STI testing among young people

By Bridget Mulcahy

In honor of Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, Planned Parenthood, MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation have teamed together to launch the Get Yourself Tested campaign, encouraging young people between the ages of 15 and 24 to get tested for sexually transmitted infections.

“Nineteen million people have contracted STIs this year alone and about half are young people between the ages of 15 and 24,” said Beth Kanter, senior vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood in Illinois.

“By the age of 25, one in two sexually active people will have an STI,” she added.

The Get Yourself Tested campaign is trying to raise awareness about sexually transmitted infections to younger generations using various forms of media. MTV has released the movie “Pedro” recounting the life of Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive activist from MTV’s “The Real World” to help launch the campaign. Also, Planned Parenthood has an application on its Web site, The Check, which assesses what kinds of tests people should conduct based on their sexual activity. The campaign has a Facebook application, Kanter said.

She said young people need to be more aware of STIs. Despite the fact that they are preventable and treatable, STIs are still prevalent and frequently go untreated.

“Too often a lack of information, social stigmas or finances stops people from getting tested. Hopefully, this campaign will bring attention to STI testing and treatment and alleviate some of these factors,” Kanter said.

“I think the attitude is, ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me,’ so people are not taking necessary precautions, or maybe people are so uncomfortable with it, they’d rather just not go get tested and not know,” said Lizzie Tosaw, junior in LAS. “STDs have a bad social stigma, but really anyone can be infected,” she added.

This may be especially true in Illinois, which ranks sixth for number of AIDS cases reported, seventh in syphilis and chlamydia cases, and eleventh in gonorrhea cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2007 Sexually Transmitted Disease report.

“This is all really scary, but the good news is all these infections are preventable and treatable,” Kanter said.

Getting tested is easier and less expensive than ever before, she added.

McKinley Health Center offers testing for women through the Women’s Health Clinic or their primary physician, and for men through the medical clinic or their primary physician. Most tests are covered by students’ health service fees and results can be accessed online in two to five business days.

Lara Philipps, communications coordinator of Planned Parenthood in Champaign, said students can also receive testing and treatment at Champaign Health Center, 302 E. Stoughton St. Testing and treatment is arranged through appointment and the amount coverage depends on an individual’s insurance policy. Tests typically range from $30 to $170.