Friday, December 20, 2013

Get Tested!

Knowledge is power and a group of teens at Newport High School work to empower other teens with the knowledge they need to protect themselves against HIV and other STDs.

This group is called ASPEN (AIDS Student Peer Educators of Newport) and they teach STD prevention and HIV awareness lessons in health classes at area high schools on the Eastside.

The focus is to not only prevent HIV transmission but to also tackle the misconceptions and stigma associated with HIV. HIV is only spread through the 5 infecting fluids; blood, semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk and cowper's fluid (which is a pre-ejaculate). This means that HIV cannot be spread by sharing food, kissing, holding hands, hugging, through public restrooms and other avenues of casual contact.

In addition ASPEN fundraises money for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and commemorates World AIDS Day at Newport. For the past 6 years this group of 26 students have been the top fundraising team at the Seattle AIDS Walk, beating top companies like Starbucks and Microsoft.

They are passionate about the work they do because they realize how real the issue is to their own lives. STD and HIV transmission is very much prevalent among teens, with 2 teens infected with HIV every hour.

There are three main ways of protecting yourself that ASPEN highlights, three secrets to keeping yourself safe.

1. Barrier contraception: The most popular form of barrier contraception is the male condom. Other types include dental dams which are used for vaginal oral sex. A common misconception among teens is that transmission through oral sex doesn't occur, when in fact, almost all STDs can be passed through oral sex.

2. Abstinence: This doesn't just include abstinence from sex, but also other risky behaviors such as shared needle use and oral sex. This is the only 100% way to protect yourself.

3. Getting Tested! This one is the most important. STD and HIV tests are FREE for teens at public clinics such as Eastgate Public Health on the Eastside and most STD tests are as easy as peeing in a cup.  For an HIV test, if you are afraid of needles you can still get tested by simply swabbing the inside of your cheek. Visiting the Teen Clinic is also a great way to get free birth control and free barrier contraception. Encourage your sexual partner should be tested as well, to protect yourself. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 5 people with HIV are unaware they have it, and spreading it to more people. Getting tested is the only way to slow this disease, and make sure YOU are safe.

For more questions on a teen clinic near you or any questions on HIV and other STDs feel free to call Teen Link! 1866-833-6546.

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