The City of Madison is advertising its testing services for sexually transmitted diseases as a part of the national “Get Yourself Tested” campaign for STI awareness month.

Testing rates for STIs in Dane County have dropped significantly since 2020, according to Public Health of Madison & Dane County. In 2020, there were only 707 STI tests conducted by PHDMC, compared to 1,952 tests conducted in 2019.

This decrease in testing rates occurred as the importance of STI testing was overshadowed by the pandemic and the need for COVID-19 testing.

On the University of Wisconsin campus, the decrease in STI testing has caused concern among advocacy groups such as Sex Out Loud, a peer-to-peer resource on campus that uses sex-positive language to promote sexual health on campus, according to their website.

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“STI testing is super important in general, and especially on campus,” representative from Sex Out Loud Lissy Kettleson said. “Anyone can be at risk for any STI.”

STIs impact young people at a disproportionate rate, with nearly half of all new infections coming from the 15-24 age group in 2018.  STI rates still rose across the country in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Tuesday. The report recorded 2.4 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2020.

Kettleson said the services offered by PHMDC and her own organization are vital. University Health Services and PHMDC both test for a robust list of STIs, covering illnesses such as HIV, hepatitis-C, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

In addition to testing, PHDMC also offers methods to prevent STI transmission, such as condoms and other birth control options.

Over the past few years, PHMDC pointed out testing has been more commonly associated with COVID-19. But the “Get Yourself Tested” campaign has been launched with the intention of reminding people that testing for STIs is crucial, PHMDC said in their campaign announcement.

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“Getting tested helps people to be aware of their bodies and protect themselves and sexual partners they’ve had or may have in the future,” Kettleman said.

According to PHMDC, anyone can make an appointment for testing at the clinic by calling (608) 243-0411 and can find more information about testing and services online.