Many people — and probably most — don’t grow up knowing how to arrange for or manage their own healthcare. For some, that’s because our parents, guardians, or other family members did it for us. For others, it’s because we never got regular healthcare so we could learn how it works. Some of us only went to the doctor, clinic, or emergency room when something was very very wrong; some of us had yearly check-ups with the same doctor, in the same place and knew we (or more likely our parents or guardians) could call the doctor’s office any time we were sick.
Whatever your healthcare was like growing up, you may be responsible for it now or very soon. Sexual healthcare is a kind of care that people don’t want parents or guardians involved in, so it may be that seeking out sexual healthcare is where you find you first need to navigate your healthcare on your own.
We know that can be daunting or intimidating. But managing your healthcare mostly just comes down to the following things:
- Doing some research.
- Being and staying organized.
- Communicating clearly and respectfully, asking questions and taking responsibility for gathering and keeping the information you’re given.
- Recognizing that your health matters and is very important, and keeping that strongly in mind, and in practice, in all your interactions with healthcare providers.
Those are the barest of basics. What follows are specifics so that you can hopefully feel more capable and less frazzled as you start managing your own healthcare, or find some helps to troubleshoot care that’s not working out for you in any way. What the healthcare you get, of any kind, is like, and how it’ll go, will depend on your own health, the kind of healthcare you have access to, and your personal preferences about the kind and frequency of healthcare you get. How it all goes will also often have just as much to do with you as it does a provider.
This is the well-being of your own body and mind we’re talking about here: being able to navigate the healthcare system, to whatever extent you choose to do so and are able to do so, is a crucial skill for maintaining or improving that well-being. So, have a read about choosing a doctor, calling to get an appointment, preparing for an appointment and getting the most out of your interactions with healthcare providers and healthcare support staff.
Have a read at Scarleteen here!
I am 15 and I just had sex for the first time last Friday. It was unprotected but he did not cum. The next morning I had pain. The pain continued through Saturday and Sunday. I thought the pain was from having sex for the first time, but it’s now Monday and I realized stinging while I pee, cloudy with some blood in it too, in addition to constantly having to pee and never feeling empty. I have had chills, too. I am almost 100% positive I have a UTI, but there is no way I’m telling my mom and getting medical attention for it, she can’t know I had sex. I’ve read into it in depth, and the more I read the more scared I get. I’m on a vitamin regimen and I am able to get a z-pack, which treats bacterial infections but I’m unsure if it’ll help me. Will it? are there anything I can do besides drink water and wait it out? How long will it last untreated? HELP!Heather Corinna replies:
I have to give you an answer I know you won’t like, but there really isn’t any other right answer.
It very much sounds like you need to get this evaluated, ASAP, by a healthcare provider. Right now.
A Z-pack may or may not treat your infection, especially since that class of antibiotics isn’t always what’s prescribed for urinary tract infections. (I also cannot ethically advise you to use any medications off-label or to use them besides as you have been directed to by your prescribing physician.) We also really don’t want to self-prescribe antibiotics, nor try and self-diagnose what sounds like something other than a very mild infection. Especially when you don’t have medical training or access to clinical tests to even see what’s wrong with you in the first place. Google can’t make any of us into doctors.
If you’re starting to get chills, and you’re seeing blood in your urine, it may be this UTI, if that’s what it is, is getting worse or spreading to your kidneys, and that’s very serious business. It is also what will often happen with untreated UTIs. Those infections don’t just stay put forever in your urinary tract or bladder, they keep moving, spreading to other organs. To boot, since the sex you had was unprotected, you’d also want to make sure this isn’t some other kind of infection entirely or a UTI and an STI.
Drinking more and more water isn’t going to treat your infection: that’s one way we can prevent these kinds of infections in the first place, and sometimes if we are just starting to get one, something like water or cranberry can nip them in the bud before they start. But it sounds like you’re way, way past that at this point. And infections don’t just go away: they have to be treated.
You need healthcare, and I’d say that really is all there is to it.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here.
A tough situation we deal with in now and then in direct service is this: a user comes in, and reports having contracted an STI; a user who also isn’t a first-time user of our site or services, and who, in a previous conversation with us about pregnancy risks, blew off also talking about STIs and safer sex and turned down help we offered to them to reduce their STI risks, not just pregnancy risks.
When this happens, a person like this will usually be very upset about having contracted an STI, often angry, and even mystified about how this happened to them. Of course, we’re rarely mystified and also are not usually surprised this happened, since we already identified risks of STIs when we were talking with them in the past, which is why we brought the importance of safer sex up with them in the first place.
This is one of those things where there’s no joy or pride in being right: it stinks to be right about someone getting any kind of illness and being unhappy. Even though the majority of STIs are treatable, many of our users are not contracting HIV, but the other, less deadly STIs, and have access to healthcare and treatment, and even though most feelings of upset with an STI are happening based more on social stigma than from serious, long-term health outcomes, we would greatly prefer our users didn’t have to suffer needless distress and fear, and that they avoid any kind of illness that can be avoided.
It’s frustrating for us when we know a user had an opportunity they refused to get more information about and help with safer sex; when they could have changed their habits before so they would’ve most likely avoided an STI entirely, since most of the time with most STIs, safer sex practices are highly effective at preventing STI transmission.
Even more frustrating is that sometimes, some of the users in situations like these still aren’t interested in prevention help, and clearly still aren’t going to rethink and change their habits. So then we have to know they’ll probably transmit or contract the same STI or another in the future. Even with treatment, that really can, and often does, take a toll on our personal health and well-being, and certainly takes a big toll on the public health.
Like most public health organizations and people who work in sexual health and aim to try and improve it for everyone, we really want to change this pattern. We also know this is an ongoing challenge, and something where we all just have to keep talking, keep trying, and keep seeing if we can’t come up with new or adjusted approaches in order to help people do better with safer sex. That’s what I’m trying to do today. This isn’t a finger-wag, a scold or an I-told-you-so, but an attempt to, together with you, I hope, just work on doing this better.
Today, before I suggest some things that might help you improve your safer sex practices, I want to specifically address two of the biggest players I often see in these situations: either when someone has been in a relationship for a while, and/or when condoms, which were often once used as contraception as well as safer sex, are replaced as a contraception method by other methods, like the pill or a Depo shot.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here.
7:10pm Before the Test:
I was going to be taking my STI test with a friend today, with the idea we would both get tested and I could’ve written in the style of a comedy bromance movie like “Dude. Where’s My Car?” except with less sexism and more conversations about male STI testing anxiety and our feelings.
Alas, he has made other arrangements and I’ll be going solo to the testing clinic.
I would strongly recommend going with a friend if you think it’d make getting tested feel more comfortable.
Despite not following through with the plan, I really appreciate that our arranging the trip to the clinic allowed us an excuse to acknowledge that we had both prioritised our health in this way, and show to each other that we’d be supportive of one and other were we to find we had caught an oft stigmatised infection. Ashton Kutcher would be proud.
8:13 Waiting Area after Test:
I’m lucky enough to live in the UK and therefore (for now) having free access to an NHS clinic for full STI testing by appointment. But I came here to a community based clinic instead, which is funded by charity, because this project provides testing without appointment and I am extravagantly disorganised and appreciate how much easier this is for me. This clinic focuses on reducing HIV in the MSM (men who have sex with men) demographic, but is open to anyone, and so I’m here in the city centre where it is based. They test for HIV, chlamydia & gonorrhea and I’ve opted for all three.
On arriving, parking my bike and hopping up the flight of steps, I was seen immediately and filled out some information sheets, which also asked for my mobile number so I could be texted the chlamydia & gonorrhea results. I was handed a series of plastic objects for getting my pee into a vial. In the WC I got to use a pipette to make sure that the exactly correct amount was in the vial.
I was an expert. I only wish I had a white lab coat to complete the look.
As a side note, my friend who couldn’t join me had been asking me about the urban legend of some painful and unwieldy metal object that supposedly is pushed up the penis for STI testing. This object does not exist, what it may however refer to is the swab (a glorified cotton bud) used to take a sample of discharge as a way of testing for syphilis when symptoms are already presenting themselves and more commonly to test for gonorrhea. It’s not the only way to test for those things, though; my gonorrhea test only required a urine sample.
More importantly it’s good to remember that when seeking healthcare, you’re dealing with your body and you get to decide whether or not to do any test. If I don’t want to do something I find icky, I don’t have to, and can just ask for the tests I do want and am comfortable with. Historically, STI testing has been exaggerated, not just by urban myth but also by old fashioned health propaganda as a way to demonise sexual choices.
Testing, rather than being a punishment for sexuality, is, in practise, one of the many great things which help make fantastic, safer sex possible.
After returning from my laboratory — otherwise known as the loo — I handed my (perfectly collected) sample back to the nurse and was soon invited to a confidential interview room to receive my HIV test. To my surprise, the person who was to take my blood and test me was someone who I’d met at a local bar and we have mutual friends. Quite professionally this made the first topic ever so much more relevant, i.e. the discussion of confidentiality.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here!
“None of my friends want an implant because they’re scared of getting it cut out,” says Estelle, 18. “I don’t use the pill because a friend of mine did and it messed up her periods. The injection? Just … noooooo! My friend had it, and it was horrible – I hate needles. The coil? That’s just weird.”
Estelle relies on condoms for contraception. Although good for lowering the risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection), condoms are one of the least reliable contraceptive methods available. She’s been having sex for less than a year – has she ever had a conversations with a health professionals about how to avoid getting pregnant?
“I mainly just talk to my friends about it,” she says. Has she ever thought she might be pregnant? “Yes.”
So does she think condoms are safe? “Yes, because I’ve used them and I haven’t got pregnant” is the response.
Because she’s using condoms, Estelle believes she’s taking care and being responsible. She is, as far as she has the information to be. But health professionals say that young people are routinely let down by the education system, their teachers and wider society when it comes to easy access to good-quality contraceptive advice. It means that myths abound, and teenagers fall back on the limited and highly subjective experience of their peer group.
There are numerous problems facing teenagers when they find themselves needing contraceptive advice, not the least of which, says Hollie Kluczewski, national co-ordinator for Sexpression, is that nobody talks about young people having sex in a positive way.
“It’s all very mechanical. ‘Please pee in a pot for a chlamydia test and here’s a condom,’” she says. “If you always talk about sex as a frightening thing – ‘sex kills’ for instance – then you feel bad about having it, and then you’re not going to access services.”
Sexpression is a nationwide organisation of mostly medical students, supported by consultants in sexual health to offer peer support to young people on any sexual health or relationship-related topic. The students volunteer in schools, community centres and youth groups. Kluczewski says that creating an atmosphere where having sex is seen as normal, healthy and positive does not mean “plugging sex”, but being open and honest about the questions that arise.
Read the rest of this great piece at The Guardian here.
While Scarleteen serves an international readership, we’re based in the United States, and our country of residence greatly impacts our organization and around half of the 4-5 million users who come to Scarleteen each year. The Presidential Election is here, so it’s time again for those of us at Scarleteen to do what we can to help our users best participate in this important and big part of the democratic process.
Many of you are first-time voters: welcome to your right to vote (sorry you had to wait so long!) and we hope you’ll exercise it. We provide this nonpartisan guide each time around to best help you make your own choice in who you vote for for president. In it, you’ll find links to the major candidates and parties, a basic rundown of the major candidates’ positions and records on central issues, some listed supporters and endorsements for the candidates, and more information on where they stand on issues central to what we do here at Scarleteen.
We suggest you take a look through these materials, then spend some time looking at the party platforms and each of the candidate’s websites, and keep up with the news as best you can. Checking out your favorite political groups and organizations, the ones you respect, and seeing what they have to say about the candidates is also a great help in making voting decisions. This guide is jam-packed with links that will lead you to more information on the candidates, so if you just keep clicking, you’re going to become an expert in no time. Even if you’re not yet of age to vote, we think it’s a grand idea to inform yourself: you can use this information in talking to your siblings, parents or grandparents whose vote will impact you.
Any time we vote, we don’t just vote for ourselves as individuals, but for all our fellow citizens, even those who are radically different than we are. In alignment with our core values here at Scarleteen — things like compassion, fairness, inclusion, equality and the health and well-being of the 100% — we feel that how you vote is as important as if you vote, and would implore you to be civic-minded in your voting choices.
Last week, I attended the annual International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics conference in Italy. During the five days I was there, nearly 500,000 women had abortions. Many of these women faced stigma, a mechanism of social control used to dehumanize and devalue women who need, or decide, to terminate pregnancies.
When we began to examine the social construct of abortion stigma several years ago, we found that very little had been published. And yet, it’s really the root of all barriers that women—and even providers—face to obtain or perform abortions. Why do we legally deprive women of a health care service that could safe their lives? Why are women forced to undergo a waiting period in order to get an abortion? Why are abortion clinics often separate from other reproductive health care clinics? Why do women trade safety for secrecy and turn to “back-alley” providers? And the questions go on…
Stigma contributes to the idea that women who have abortions are not the norm, although they are. The social construct of abortion stigma creates an “us-versus-them” mentality—in spite of the fact that in the United States one in three women have abortions and a much higher share of all women globally terminate a pregnancy sometime during their reproductive lives, abortion is still constructed as something that is wrong, inappropriate, or deviant. Discriminating against women is therefore considered normal; 26 percent of women live in countries where abortion is legally restricted and many more live in places where they have to justify their abortion. If this isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is.
Read the rest at RH Reality Check here.
Mitt Romney’s “close” relative died of an illegal abortion (which is why he used to say he wouldn’t force his beliefs on you).
In 1963, Mitt Romney lost a “dear” and “close” relative to an illegal abortion. Ann Keenan was the sister of his brother-in-law, Loren “Larry” Keenan, husband to Mitt’s sister, Lynn. By all accounts, her death at age 21 “deeply impacted members of the family.” Romney’s sister, Jane, explained, “‘She was a beautiful, talented young gal we all loved. And [her death] pretty much ruined the parents - [she was] their only daughter. You would do anything not to repeat that.” The Keenan family asked for donations to be sent to Planned Parenthood in her name.
Ann Keenan apparently “was very close” to Mitt personally and he, too, appeared moved by the loss explaining, it “obviously makes one see that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, that you would hope it would be safe and legal.” During a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney pledged, “It is since that time my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that.”
But Romney’s dear young relative seems to have disappeared from his memory (as has his promise to not waiver.) He no longer “exhumes” her body to serve as proof of his pro-choice credentials as he did routinely when running for governor of Massachusetts. These days, he’s promising to overturn Roe v Wade. Indeed, he seems eager to reinstate those laws that drove his close relative to fatally take matters into her own hands.
Read the rest from Christina Page here.