Take Pride in Taking Care of Your Health

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By Jimmy Radosta

In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is proud to reaffirm our commitment to the rights and health of LGBTQ people.

We understand that LGBTQ people have unique health care needs. We believe that everyone deserves high-quality, affordable health care and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health information, no matter who they are or where they live.

We also believe in sex education that covers the full range of topics affecting sexual health. Our sex education programs are nonjudgmental and welcome all youth, regardless of gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

LGBTQ young people need to feel loved, secure and valued—no matter what. They need support to be safe and find their way in the world. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette offers programs for LGBTQ youth and allies, providing safe and supportive environments that allow youth to get the information and support they need to make healthy decisions and feel comfortable in their identities.

LGBTQ Pride Month is also a good reminder to take charge of your sexual health by picking up the phone or going online to make an appointment. When was the last time you saw your doctor? Not because you were sick, but just for a checkup? What about the last time you got tested for STDs? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long.

The truth is that not enough men get the checkups and preventive care they need. Men are less likely to visit the doctor until they’re experiencing the symptoms of a serious ailment, and 24 percent of men don’t have a usual source of health care. Believe it or not, 21 percent of men didn’t have a health care visit at all in 2012!

planned parenthoodIt can be easy to take your health for granted, but preventive care is an important part of staying safe, healthy and happy. Seeing a health care provider regularly can help prevent illnesses before they become serious. A big part of taking care of your sexual health is getting tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases and protecting yourself against STD infections.

Many sexually active men may not realize that getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases is a basic part of staying healthy and taking control of your sex life. STDs remain a major issue for men in this country: Half of all sexually active young people in the United States will contract an STD by the time they’re 25—and since many STDs show no symptoms, you or your partner may have an STD from a previous relationship and not know it.

The good news is that most STDs, including HIV, are treatable, and many are curable. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can get treated, and early treatment can help prevent serious health problems that can result from untreated STDs.

Getting tested for STDs is easier than ever: For example, rapid HIV tests can provide results in as fast as 20 minutes from just a swab inside the mouth. For other tests, all you have to do is urinate in a cup. No needles necessary.

Protecting yourself from STDs is as important as knowing your status. Condoms used consistently and correctly provide the best protection: When it comes to HIV, for example, using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer than not using a condom. And contrary to the myth that condoms make sex less pleasurable, people rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable when they use condoms as when they don’t.

Getting an STD test is not only a way to keep yourself healthy and prevent future health problems—it also provides an opportunity for you to ask someone you can trust about, well, anything! Nothing is off-limits — Planned Parenthood providers have heard pretty much every question in the book. If there’s a sexual health question you’ve been wondering about, we’re here for you. And whatever you ask your provider, it’s entirely confidential.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette offers basic health care for men, including testing and treatment of STDs, HIV testing, and sexual health information and education, to help ensure that men in Oregon and Southwest Washington stay healthy and safe. In fact, in the past 10 years, Planned Parenthood has nearly doubled the number of male patients we see nationally for health issues that affect men, and many Planned Parenthood health centers offer special services for men, including cancer screenings, infertility screenings and referrals, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation education, vasectomies, exams, treatment and referrals.

Everyone deserves a place to turn for accurate information and nonjudgmental health care—so don’t wait until next year to schedule an appointment. Your health is simply too important to put off.

While we have seen significant strides in the LGBTQ movement in recent years, there is still work to be done. At Planned Parenthood, our doors are open to everyone—no matter what. Because we know that when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, their families and their communities better and healthier.

Jimmy Radosta is the Media Relations Director for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive health care and youth education programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For more information about STD testing, or to find a health center near you, visit PPCW.org.