The state health department is launching a campaign to raise awareness about sexually-transmitted diseases, especially among young people. Karen Thompson, the S-T-D program manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the campaign is called G-Y-T or Get Yourself Tested.
She says they’re targeting young people through media like the Internet and TV to start having open, honest conversations with their parents or other role models about sexual health, ask questions, to know what it means to be at risk and where to get tested if they are at risk.
Thompson says studies find about 19-million S-T-D infections are reported every year in the U.S. and almost half are diagnosed in young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
"A person should start to get tested for sexually-transmitted diseases when they become sexually active, especially if they’re at risk in terms of not using some type of contraception that would protect against sexually-transmitted diseases, or if they have more than one partner," she says. "Even those that do have one partner might not know whether that partner has had previous partners and that could put them at risk."
Thompson says recent studies have been very sobering, finding 34 S-T-D infections for every thousand Iowans between of 15 and 24. In the last ten years, Iowa’s seen a 70%t increase in chlamydia cases with 75% of them in Iowans 15 to 24. With gonorrhea, there’s been a 26% increase in the last decade and 62% of them are also in Iowans 15 to 24.
Syphilis bucked that trend, as there’s been an 83-percent increase in syphilis cases in Iowa over the past decade, but most of those are in adults ages 25 to 54. Thompson says many people don’t openly discuss sexual health with young people — and they should.
"Just like with any other prevention message we’re trying to send," Thompson says, "Safe driving, you talk about seat belts. Safe habits with alcohol, you talk about alcohol and tobacco and what kids should know and should and shouldn’t do and what your expectations of them are."
The same types of communication should occur with sexual health, she says, and April is S-T-D Awareness Month. The website for Get Yourself Tested is or to learn about STDs and to find testing locations, there’s www.findSTDtest.org .