If the term GYT can become as common as LOL, sexually transmitted diseases among young people in the United States will become much less common.
That’s what MTV is hoping, anyway.
The television network is launching the GYT – Get Yourself Tested – campaign this month to promote awareness of the prevalence of STDs among teenagers and college students. MTV is working with the Kaiser Family Federation, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to educate those at risk.
“One in two sexually active people will contract an STD by the time they are 25,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “And most won’t know it.”
Fenton is a supporter of the GYT campaign.
“The simple act of getting a test can go along way to stopping the spread of diseases,” he said. “Given the testing options available, I would say that it is unacceptable that STDs remain such a widespread problem in the United States today.”
The CDC estimates that there are 19 million new STD cases each year and estimated that in 2006 there were almost three million civilians aged 14 to 39 with cases of chlamydia. Exact statistics are hard to know due to the high number of unreported cases of such diseases.
Social pressures are often what prevent an individual from getting an STD test.
“Stigma and shame associated with STDs are some of the main reasons that STDs remain such a large problem,” Fenton said.
The GYT program is a conscious effort on the part of MTV to take advantage of current slang such as “OMG” and “LOL” to reach younger generations about the importance of getting tested while addressing the stigmatization associated with STDs.
“The GYT campaign was developed to make it easier for young people to talk about testing,” said Jason Rzepka, Vice President of MTV Public Affairs.
The campaign is not new. MTV used the campaign last year and it was successful in increasing the number of young people that got tested for STDs, Rzpeka said. MTV tracked the testing statistics of 10 Planned Parenthood centers across the country and found an increase in the number of individuals that got tested nationwide.
According to data from the California Department of Public Health, there were 542 cases of chlamydia, 64 cases of gonorrhea and five cases of primary and secondary syphillis in Yolo County in 2008. As of this month, there were 34 cases of HIV and 226 AIDS cases reported in Yolo County.
“The most common bacterial STD we see is chlamydia,” said Polly Paulson, Health Education Programming Planner for UC Davis Student Health Services. “That’s a very typical pattern for this age group. The two most common viral [STDs] are HPV and herpes.”
The statistics are also consistent with national trends, namely the female to male case ratio. In Yolo county, females accounted for 72 percent of chlamydia cases and 54 percent of gonorrhea cases.
“Young women are biologically more susceptible to STDs than young men,” Fenton said.
Human Papillomavirus is also a major risk for young women, Fenton said. The CDC estimates that more than six million HPV infections appear each year. Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
“Girls between 11 and 26 should be vaccinated for HPV,” he said.
Student Health Services offers STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HPV, HIV and syphilis. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center also offers HIV testing.
MTV has provided incentives for college students to participate in the GYT campaign. The campus with the most GYT supporters on Facebook.com will be featured on MTV News as well as other prizes for the students of the winning campus.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Common STD Symptoms
Not sure if you need to get tested? Here
are some of the most common STDs and their symptoms:
Unusual discharge from your vagina or penis; burning when you urinate;
pain, bleeding or discharge from your rectum if you have receptive anal
Gonorrhea – This can infect the anus, eyes, throat and mouth
as well as the penis in men and the urinary tract and uterus in women.
Women’s symptoms can include vaginal bleeding between periods, painful
urination and increased vaginal discharge. Men’s symptoms can include
painful urination, discharge from the penis and painful or swollen
testicles. Gonorrhea in the rectum may cause itching, soreness,
bleeding, rectal discharge or painful bowel movements.
Genital herpes often doesn’t cause any symptoms. Those that manifest may
include: painful blisters or sores on or around the genitals or anus,
flu-like feelings when the sores are present and sores that come back
several times within a year.
HPV – HPV infections are either
high- or low-risk. Low-risk infections can cause genital warts while
high-risk infections can sometimes develop into cancer of the cervix.
Cancer-causing HPV infections are not the same as those that cause
genital warts. The Pap smear is the best method for detecting HPV in
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,