This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
New STD Screening Suggestions for Young Women
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts that advises the Department of Health and Human Services, released new recommendations this week related to sexual health.
First, it announced that all sexually active women ages 24 and younger should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea; women older than 24 should be screen if they have any risk factors including a new sexual partner, multiple sexual partners, or unprotected sex. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2.86 million cases of chlamydia and 820,000 case of gonorrhea occur in the United States each year. Both of these infections are caused by bacteria and as such can be cured with antibiotics but both are often asymptomatic and therefore go undetected. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can in turn lead to infertility. Routine screening can catch infections before they cause any long-term health problems.
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Though the task force considered issuing new recommendations on screening tests for men, it concluded that doing so was not necessary.
The task force did make another important recommendation around sexual health, however. It suggested intensive behavioral counseling for all sexually active teens as well as for those adults at risk of contracting an STI. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the co-vice chair of the task force explained to Healthline that this recommendation is based on research showing how effective counseling can be. She pointed to one study that found two hours of counseling could reduce a person’s risk by 60 percent, and a half hour could do so by 40 percent. She said, “This is an important recommendation with regard to prevention. It says that moderate to high intensity counseling about condom use, mutual monogamy, and abstinence, are actually effective in preventing STDs. This isn’t just a casual conversation; it’s at least 30 minutes of counseling.”
Such counseling would include education about the STIs and how they are transmitted, assessment of the individual’s own risk, explanations of how to use a condom, and strategies for communicating with partners.
Young Men Turned Away Trying to Buy EC
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health wanted to see if young men really had access to over-the-counter emergency contraception (EC) pills. To find out, they sent mystery shoppers (trained young men ages 19, 25, and 28) to 158 pharmacies in certain New York City areas, including Washington Heights, the Bronx, and the Upper East Side.
Though the results were just published in the Journal of Contraception, the experiment took place in 2012. Today, there are no age restrictions on who can buy EC pills, but at the time they were only available over the counter to people 17 and older. There was never any gender restriction on who could buy the pills, but the study’s lead author, David Bell, told Reuters that some of his young male patients would tell him they were turned away when they tried to buy it for their female partners.
The mystery shopper study found that most pharmacies they went to (128) would sell EC to a young man, but some made it difficult. Thirty pharmacies did not sell the product to the young men. Of these, eight said it was not in stock. The remaining 22 insisted that the young men come back either with their female partner or with their partner’s ID.
Bell told Reuters that young men might have a harder time accessing EC places outside of New York. And in small towns where there may only be one pharmacy, being turned away could be even more harmful.
Kansas Holds a Sex Toy Auction
If you happen to be in Kansas City, Kansas, on September 29, you could get a great deal on some sex toys and help the state make up for lost tax revenue at the same time. The state seized the sex toy merchandise—thousands of adult items from vibrators to handcuffs—from five adult stores across the state that had the same owner. United Outlets LLC, doing business as Bang (naturally), owes the state $163,986 after failing to pay sales, income, and withholding tax.
Some lawmakers expressed outrage that the state would be involved in such an untoward enterprise. State Sen. Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka), said in a press release, “[Gov. Sam] Brownback is so desperate to fill the massive hole in the state budget caused by his reckless income tax cuts that the state of Kansas is now in the porn business.”
But Jeannine Koranda, a spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue, pointed out that the state isn’t actually selling the merchandise: “The property was released back to the owner, who then contracted with the auction company to sell the items, and then that money will be used to pay the taxes.”
Gov. Brownback’s office also issued a response to Hensley’s criticism, saying, “While we do not agree with the type of business involved here, it was nonetheless a legal business that was closed due to failure to pay taxes.”
For those of us less interested in Kansas politics and more interested in getting our hands on discount merchandise (which is all in its original, unopened packaging), the contents of the warehouse will also be available through an online auction run by Equip-Bid Auctions.