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The fourth annual GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign kicks off National STD Awareness Month (April) with new initiatives on-air, online, and on the ground at college campuses and in more than 5,000 health centers across the nation.
GYT is an ongoing national campaign launched in 2009 as an extension of a longstanding public information partnership between MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation to address the high rates of STDs among those under 25.
It is supported by a broad range of organizations including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which reinforce the on-air campaign with on-the-ground promotions conducted with health centers and community organizations across the nation.
“MTV has made a sustained commitment to challenging the stigma that prevents countless young people from getting tested for STDs and HIV,” said Jason Rzepka, Vice President of MTV Public Affairs. “We’re proud that GYT has helped drive notable increases in STD testing, but there’s no finish line in this race, and we will continue to do all we can to help our audience make responsible decisions about their sexual health.”
GYT is a youthful, empowering campaign aimed at reducing the spread of STDs among young people through information; open communication with partners, health care providers, and peers; and testing and treatment as needed. GYT offers a short-hand reference for young people to open up dialogue about STDs and, in particular, the importance of testing.
According to CDC, young people ages 15-24 represent nearly half of all new STDs occurring in the U.S., while representing just 25 percent of the population. Rates of chlamydia, a preventable and treatable STD, are particularly high. Chlamydia often has no symptoms, and when left undiagnosed and untreated can cause serious health consequences, including infertility in women. As a result, CDC recommends annual screening for all sexually active women aged 25 and younger.
“We’re proud to be a part of GYT because of the positive difference it has made on the lives of so many young Americans,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “The facts are clear – STDs are common, and the life-long impact of an untreated STD is real. But, these don’t have to be accepted parts of life. GYT provides the tools young people need to be proactive about their health.”
GYT public service messages air throughout the year on MTV channels with cross promotions with health centers and community organizations.
Extensive information resources – including a dedicated website (www.gytnow.org), which provides basic information about common STDs, talking tips and a zip code locator to find local testing locations – as well as mobile testing locator, GYTNOW (498669) – provide the audience with more information. During April, the campaign scales up its presence by introducing new messaging and outreach. Some elements of this year’s national GYT campaign include:
“When it comes to STDs, many of those at risk don’t know it or assume they would know if they had one,” said Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Communication & Media Partnerships Program. “Through a combination of on-air, online, and on-the-ground messages, GYT is working to increase knowledge and remove the stigma of STD testing.”
During last year’s GYT campaign, Planned Parenthood health centers tested almost 125,000 men and women in April, and Planned Parenthood affiliates held 240 events with 1,250 youth volunteers, reaching 67,000 people. Data collected from 10 Planned Parenthood affiliates show that STD testing has increased significantly since the launch of GYT in 2009.
Among the 10 affiliates, there was a 51 percent increase in patients getting tested in April 2011 as compared to the same time in 2008, prior to the launch of the campaign – suggesting that the campaign helped drive an increase in STD tests.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood reported significant increases in the populations most affected by STDs, including African Americans and people living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Data is not available for all 80 PPFA affiliates and more than 1000 clinics, colleges and universities, and other partners that also supported the campaign in 2011.
“At Planned Parenthood, we know that affordable testing and treatment, along with education, are the best ways to ensure that young people stay healthy and safe,” said PPFA President Cecile Richards.
“For almost a century, Planned Parenthood has been providing health care information and resources aimed at preventing STDs, and our doors are open to everyone. Getting tested is simply a basic part of staying healthy, and we’re thrilled that the GYT campaign is getting that message out to teens and young people.”