A UW researcher says what young women don’t know about Sexually Transmitted Diseases may hurt them. Doctor Heather Royer, a UW Madison School of Nursing researcher, said it’s clear many have significant misconceptions about Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and STD testing. For example, regarding condom use. “Young women seem to not understand that certain STDs can be transmitted even with condom use, particularly those that are transmitted via skin to skin contact, like HPV (Human Papiloma Virus) or HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus),” Royer explained. “They don’t seem to recognize that thy are still at risk for STDs, even with condom use.”
Royer, who surveyed 302 women ages 18 to 24, found that those patients – and health care providers – are often still uncomfortable with the topic. “It really limits the depth of conversation that can occur as well as the ability to address a number of misconceptions that people have about the testing process and about STDs in general, that certainly can result in continued transmission of STDs. Health care providers should not assume that patients understand anything about the testing process.”
Royer credits a recent media campaign for raising awareness of the issue. “That testing campaign was really launched by MTV, and just recently started in 2009. It was called GYT09, and I think it was a wonderful campaign that helps normalize the conversation around sexual health,” said Royer. “I think it helps empoyer young people to take control and responsibility of their sexual health.”
Still, many misperceptions remain. “A number of young women believed that based on visual inspection alone, health care providers can diagnose certain STDS,” said Royer. That’s a big problem since STDs commonly show no symptoms.
Royer’s survey found barriers to testing: The great majority of women (88 percent) were uncomfortable being tested by a male. Most women (79 percent) would prefer being tested by a specialist, not a family doctor. Most women (62 percent) were anxious about being tested. Nearly a third (31 percent) were concerned about STD results appearing in their medical records.