April 2021
How can we encourage young people to be tested for STDs?

Winnie Adebayo, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nursing at Penn State College of Nursing, researches how to encourage young people to take the initiative to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Dr. Adebayo’s interest is in sexual health, especially in keeping young people healthy and avoiding negative health outcomes. In nursing practice, she noticed a trend of young people with signs and symptoms of STDs. Through this experience, she became interested in reducing the burden or occurrence among young people.

“When you go to the doctor to be screened or tested for something, you provide certain information. The clinician then gives you resources to help you manage your health, on the one hand,” Dr. Adebayo said. “On the other hand, if it turns out that you’re sick and you get tested, you get treatment to get better. It’s the same thing with STDs. When people get tested, they get resources to reduce their risk, hopefully. And at the same time, if they are sick, they get treated so that they don’t transmit the infection to other people and further increase the burden.” 

Dr. Adebayo focuses on self-initiation. Self-initiation is when someone decides to get tested without a health care provider telling them to do so. Self-initiation involves the knowledge of testing, the knowledge of risk, the knowledge of available resources, but, more importantly, the self-efficacy to combine all these and take the step to get tested.

“With young people, they’re not sick, so they’re not going to the doctor every time,” Dr. Adebayo said. “They tend to go when it’s bad. Because of that, we keep missing this huge group of people who are at risk or are infected because STDs can be asymptomatic. What can we do or put in place to make this almost a part of their lifestyle and make it easy enough or straightforward enough to the point that they get tested themselves?"

More than a million people are living with HIV. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, those with HIV can live long, healthy lives.

Nearly half of adolescents aren't receiving a pair of vaccines to prevent a virus many of them will get.

Guidelines released more than a decade ago recommend that all children receive a two-shot vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, at their 11-year-old well-child check-up. Yet local, state and national statistics show that HPV vaccination rates are well below half of the adolescent population.

Dr. Ben Fogel, a pediatrician at Penn State Medical Group who has done work to improve HPV vaccination rates, says there reasons why not all children get vaccinated.

Who should be tested?

  • All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
  • All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors, such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STD, also should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women also should be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy.
  • All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently (i.e., at 3- to 6-month intervals).
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.

Is your organization interested in partnering to address sexual health?
Penn State's Dr. Winnie Adebayo is interested in partnering with community organizations:

"I want to do more work with the community. I am a community-based researcher because most of the questions I ask require me to go into the community and spend time with the people I'm trying to understand. Honestly, I never have enough community-based resources or community-based partnerships.

One of the things that I'm currently working on is in collaboration with Alder Health in Harrisburg. I'm really excited about it because it's not just embedded in their clinic at Alder Health, but it allows me to answer a pressing question within a community. I gravitate towards work that I can see an immediate effect." 

Email Dr. Adebayo if your organization is interested in discussing potential opportunities.

Learn more about Dr. Adebayo's project with Alder Health Services in this article. Alder Health Services provides primary care and mental health services focused on benefiting underserved LGBTQ+ populations. It embraces a holistic approach to care that incorporates a broader understanding of wellness through learning and physical fitness. It prioritizes creating a culturally competent and affirming health care experience that empowers the people it serves. Learn more about Alder Health Services
Do you like listening to podcasts?
Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute produces the monthly Engage Podcast. Each episode of Engage Podcast educates listeners about the research process and how Penn State research helps improve our neighbors’ and communities’ health. Engage Podcast is available on all major platforms, including Apple Podcasts and SpotifyIt is also available at pennstatectsi.libsyn.com. The current episodes are:
Have you checked out Studyfinder?
Studyfinder is an online tool to search and discover Penn State research studies looking for participants. You can search or browse by specific medical conditions like cancer or depression, or you can volunteer as a healthy volunteer.

Connect with health research resources

Are you interested in health research at Penn State? Do you want to learn ways to volunteer for a research study? Would you like to partner with a Penn State researcher in your community? Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Engage website features resources to stay connected. You can learn research basics, how to volunteer for research, where to find news and more. Visit the Engage website here.
We want to hear from you

Is your organization working to improve the health of your communities? Do you have a suggestion for a podcast topic? What do you want to read in the Engage Community Newsletter? Do you have a suggestion on how Penn State researchers can partner in your community to make a difference? Email us at engage@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.
This publication was supported by the National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1 TR002014. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Support the mission of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Give today.
If you unsubscribe using the Constant Contact link below, you will be unsubscribed from ALL emails from Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute. To unsubscribe from only this newsletter, please reply to this email and request to be removed.