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Demand the Test Ladies -- Ignorance Is Not Bliss

By Candace Y.A. Montague

May 10, 2011

Don't ask for proper health care. Demand it. Credits: studentnews.cnn.com.

Don't ask for proper health care. Demand it. Credits: studentnews.cnn.com.

It's National Women's Health Week. Now more than ever women's health has taken center stage especially since selected members of Congress used Planned Parenthood to hold out on budget negotiations. Even in 2011, women are still regarded as expendable and our lives are not valued. Well, if men won't make us a priority, then we have to do it ourselves. One way to hold ourselves in high regard is to ask to be tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV if one is participating in risky sexual behavior.

This month The Kaiser Family Foundation published key findings from their women's health survey. The results of the sexual health portion are saddening. In the report, only 28% of the women ages 18-64 have discussed sexually transmitted diseases with their doctor and only 29% have discussed HIV/AIDS. Counseling patients about the risks involved in having unprotected sex is vital to prevention. The report also showed that 62% of the women surveyed have not had an HIV test and 68% have not had an STD test in two years. More than half of those who reported not having an HIV test assumed that it was a part of the routine and didn't ask for one. No one can assume that simply because a person is a trained medical professional that he or she will have their best interest at heart.

Need further evidence? Science Daily published an article recently highlighting that young women (ages 14-19 years old) who showed up in emergency rooms complaining of lower abdominal or genital discomfort were not tested for an STI. Out of 236 females who sought treatment, 26% of them actually had an STI. Why weren't they tested? The article states that the medical professionals were not "aware of the risks of STIs in these patients". The dismay continues when the statistics are broken down by race. According to a study by the Pediatric Academic Society, white female patients ages 13-21 with gynecological complaints are less likely to be tested for STIs than black patients. Why must doctors assume white females are not sexually active or not engaging in risky behaviors?

This year, this time and this week in particular it is crucial for women to pledge that they will hold their health, particularly their sexual health, in the highest regard. About a year and a half ago, DC HAHSTA started a media campaign called 'Ask for the Test' where people were encouraged to demand to be tested for HIV. It's time to revisit this campaign with a female focus. Take care of yourselves ladies because the turn of events show clearly that no one else will do it for you.

For more information about Ask for the Test, click here.

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