How Often Do People Get Tested For STIs? Millennials' Sexual Health Habits Are Troubling, Survey Finds
Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers have a lot to say about us Millennials: we're lazy, we only care about getting "likes", we think we deserve participation trophies — the list goes on. While none of these things are true across the board, it turns out that Millennials' sexual health habits might actually be something to worry about. According to a recent Broadly and Tonic survey of 4,000 readers ages 18-34, young people are getting dangerously careless with their below-the-belt behavior.
A September 2017 report by the CDC showed that rates of sexually transmitted diseases are on the upswing. There were over 2 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2016, and each disease surpassed the CDC's 2015 totals and set new record highs for the third consecutive year. There is no single cause for this increase, but experts suggest it can be partially blamed on a lack of accessible medical infrastructure and comprehensive sex ed. When local clinics lose funding and shut down and when kids are learning that abstinence is the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections, sexual health is sure to suffer.
So what, exactly, are Millennials getting themselves into these days? The following are five scary statistics about the sexual health of the 18-34 set.
1. Preventative Testing Isn't Popular
When you're single and more likely to have multiple partners, getting tested frequently is one way to make sure you're not swapping STIs with each new hookup you have. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of singles in Broadly's survey reported getting tested before their last encounter, and 26 percent of total respondents admitted to never going to the clinic at all —neither of which bodes well for our collective sexual health.
2. Condom Usage Is Way Down
Getting tested early and often as well as communicating with your partners about STIs is essential, and yet 80 percent of women and 77 percent of men said they did not use a condom every time they had sex. Interestingly, condom usage did not differ according to sexual orientation, as 78 percent of "gay, bisexual, and other" folks didn't use one every time, and neither did those who self-identified as "straight." The bottom line? Sexual health isn't a generational priority, regardless of who you're sleeping with.
3. Communication Isn't Happening
Talking with a new partner about your sexual health is vital to combating sexually transmitted infections, and yet plenty of folks just aren't doing it. Although communication can potentially be awkward and not what you want to be thinking about when you're locking lips, a horrifying 70 percent of survey respondents said they either "sometimes or never" talk about STDs before sex. True, "sometimes" is better than nothing, but definitely not as good as "always."
4. STIs Aren't Taken Seriously
Modern medicine is pretty fantastic, and has made many STIs curable and/or treatable. Although STI stigma is something we need to address as a culture — there should be no shame in any diagnosis — that doesn't mean it's totally NBD to get one. Even after being told that their partner had an STI, 68 percent of respondents went ahead and hooked up with them anyways. Although it's possible they were using a condom or PrEP, which is one way to have safe sex despite certain diagnoses, it's also possible they weren't. And as everyone should know, condoms can't completely prevent the spread of herpes.
5. Sex Ed Is Failing Us
If you don't know what safe sex is, how can you have it? One not-so-shocking statistic that helps explain many of the other statistics from the Broadly survey is that 67 percent of respondents said their in-school sex ed didn't prepare them enough for safe sex.
Once you're an adult, no one is going to take care of your sexual health if you don't. However, if the government doesn't implement more comprehensive sex ed programs to arm kids with the knowledge they need, it's likely that the STI epidemic will continue. In the meantime, all sexual health advocates can do is raise awareness about STIs, and hope we Millennials take the time to educate ourselves.