Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello! WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re from ASHA and are here to pee in your cup. Is now a good time?Ã¢â‚¬Â
RTP, NC Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Earlier this month, as ASHA launched our STI Awareness Month activities, I wrote a short letter that cheekily called on more people to Ã¢â‚¬Å“pee in a cupÃ¢â‚¬Â (primarily to test for chlamydia). I wanted to point out that Ã¢â‚¬â€œ along with lack of health insurance Ã¢â‚¬â€œ social barriers (like stigma and lack of awareness) keep many individuals from seeking the sexual health care they need.
Everyday ASHA interacts with tens of thousands of people seeking information and support around issues of sexual health. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve urged countless individuals to take the initiative and talk with their health care providers about sexual health. This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easy and, for many patients and providers, can be downright embarrassing. We gently acknowledge all this when chatting with our clients, but our message remains the same: Anyone can be at risk for STIs. Be smart. Have the conversation. Get tested.
Great advice. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never followed any of it.
I know better but have never felt the personal need to have the same conversation with my health care provider Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or most of the tests Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that we routinely urge for others. What do my staff and I really know of the anxiety provoked by Ã¢â‚¬Å“peeing in a cupÃ¢â‚¬Â if weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never done it? It was time to try it out for ourselves.
With my inner iPod seemingly stuck on a lecture entitled Ã¢â‚¬Å“whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good for the gooseÃ¢â‚¬Â¦,Ã¢â‚¬Â one of my ASHA senior staff members and I headed to a clinic where we each peed in a cup and gave up a little blood. Then we waited for our test results for chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, gonorrhea, and herpes simplex virus 1 and 2.
Here we were, two seasoned professionals who work in the field of sexual health everyday, and the idea of getting tested was not without a bit of nervous giggling. What would the clinic staff think, having us tested for eight different infections? Would they silently (or perhaps not so silentlyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦) judge us? Neither of us Ã¢â‚¬Å“lookÃ¢â‚¬Â like weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be at high risk for STIs (what does someone like that look like, anyway?). Still, STIs can be silent for months or yearsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ What if? What if?
Soon, our test results were available. The wait almost unhinged my ASHA buddy Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a veteran whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been in the field 12 years and has more than a clue about STIs and his relative risk - who both compulsively checked the site to see if his results were back and declared he was throwing away his PIN because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d rather not know.
We did this to better understand what itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like for those who follow our recommendations to get tested for STIs, and the process certainly educated us. As unnerving as testing can be even for people well versed in this area, this experience drove home how difficult it might be for someone who isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as savvy. ASHA and other working in public health put so much energy into providing resources for those diagnosed with STIs, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good thing, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important not to ignore the Ã¢â‚¬Å“front endÃ¢â‚¬Â piece of preparing people to get tested in the first place.
I did it. I peed in a cup! Have you?
Lynn B. Barclay
President and CEO
American Social Health Association (ASHA)