As the oldest nonprofit organization in the underserved area of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), ASHA plays a leading role in sexual health advocacy efforts through its Office of Health Policy in Washington, DC. We work with members of Congress and other important partners in health policy to educate policy makers about the urgency of Sexual Health, the need for additional research, and the importance of frontline support for sexual health programs in our communities. ASHA’s vice president of health policy, Deborah Arrindell, continues to work to advocate for increased funding for raising the visibility of the issues in Congress.
Learn more about how you can make your voice heard by advocating for sound STI policy.
Why is there a need for advocacy?
- The United States has the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections of any industrialized nation, with more than 19 million new cases each year. STIs take their heaviest toll on women, adolescents, and people of color.
- Women are more easily infected, less likely to have symptoms, and more likely to suffer long-term consequences such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer, and increased risk for HIV.
- Teenage girls are at increased risk because they are highly susceptible to cervical infections and often lack access to basic reproductive health information and access to care.
- People of color are disproportionately affected by STIs and associated consequences, due in part to increased likelihood of poverty and limited access to quality health care, STI screening, and treatment.
- The role of STIs in the transmission and acquisition of HIV has been well established, and prevention and treatment of STIs is an important component of HIV prevention.
- The direct medical costs of treating STIs are over $8.4 billion a year. The indirect costs are much higher, including lost wages and productivity, as well as quality-of-life costs such as physical pain, anxiety, shame, anger, and depression.
But even as STI rates increase and the need for appropriate, accurate sexual health information grows, access to information, prevention services, and programs is increasingly threatened. In an era in which much of the rhetoric around these issues is derived from political agendas or moral values debates, ASHA stands as a credible, independent voice for reasonable and proven measures to improve health and prevent disease.
How does ASHA advocate for sound STI policy?
- ASHA maintains a policy office in Washington, DC, affirming its long-term commitment to advocacy for systemic change.
- ASHA has been successful in obtaining bipartisan support for STI programs and continues to educate policy makers about the economic, social, and public health benefits of appropriate STI policy.
- ASHA works in coalition with organizations in family planning, HIV, and women’s health, as well as organizations representing people of color and faith-based groups to keep STIs on the forefront of the policy agenda.
- ASHA is routinely asked to provide strategy and content advice on STI-related issues to a variety of national organizations and also provides leadership on numerous boards and committees.
In August 2013, ASHA and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) held a meeting Revisiting HPV Disease Policy at the State Level: Are There Next Steps? that brought together experts and stakeholders across multiple disciplines to discuss lessons learned in the HPV policy arena with an eye toward identifying strategies to improve disappointingly low rates of HPV vaccine uptake. The meeting summary report is available here.