April is ‘GYT: Get yourself tested’ month

April is national Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness month, and in recognition of that, MTV and Planned Parenthood have joined forces to create the “GYT: Get yourself tested” campaign to increase testing and treatment for STIs, particularly among the under-25 crowd.

The Real World will be promoting testing all month and Planned Parenthood Illinois will be hosting various parties, one including a viewing of the movie “Pedro,” an MTV movie based on the true story of Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive Cuban-American who was part of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco.

STIs are nothing new. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been happening for a longer than some of us have been alive.

But during the past few years, there have been technological advances that allow us to diagnose infections earlier, treat them better and educate people about preventing them. For that reason alone, people should be more motivated to get tested today than they would have been 20 years ago, and to learn how to keep from contracting an STI. But numbers prove they are not.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 19 million women and men contract STIs, including HIV/AIDS. In a 2005 CDC study, Illinois ranked 6th-highest among the 50 states in number of reported AIDS cases. This year, Illinois ranked 7th among 50 states in syphilis and chlamydia cases, and 11th out of 50 states in gonorrhea cases. Illinois may be one of the most populous states in the nation, but that’s no excuse for its high rankings.

Planned Parenthood Illinois President & CEO Steve Trombley said, “By age 25, one in two sexually active people will have an STI.”

That’s no longer just a statistic, but a sad reality.

We are luckier than a lot of other young adults across the nation because we have a Planned Parenthood just a few blocks away from the center of campus, not to mention McKinley. Both centers provide STI testing and treatment information. It’s there, it’s available, so why not use it?

As part of the GYT campaign, Champaign youths are directed to get tested or learn about treatment at Planned Parenthood Illinois Champaign Health Center, located on the corner of 3rd and Stoughton. To get tested at McKinley, you can make an appointment by calling Dial-A-Nurse or visit the McKinley Health Center Web site.

Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Use condoms every time with every partner, and get yourself tested. It’s better to know than to wonder what if.