Community members fight stigma around STD testing

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) According to a recent CDC report sexually-transmitted disease rates increased five years in a row from 2013-2018, and Alaska has some of the worst.

“We have been number one in the nation for chlamydia since about 2010,” said State Division of Public Health Specialist Jessica Harvill. “We are in the top 5 for gonorrhea.”

Despite that, Harvill says many people feel uncomfortable about the subject, and can avoid getting tested.

“A lot of folks, it’s uncomfortable for them to talk to their primary care doctor about their sexual health,” she said. “Or they just don’t have access to primary care.”

However, the State and Municipal Health Departments have teamed up with local nonprofits 4 A’s and Identity Alaska to fight that stigma, which is why Identity hosted a free testing clinic Saturday at their new midtown location.

“I want my community to be healthy, I want my community to be safe,” said Identity Community Engagement Director Brooks Banker. “We want to provide as much opportunity for people to come get tested, and in that, eradicate the stigma around getting tested.”

And some community leaders from around Anchorage came to help. Assembly members Felix Rivera and Forrest Dunbar came by to be tested, as well as drag performer Hank Van Dickerson.

“It’s easy,” Van Dickerson said. “It takes only a few minutes of your time, the more you know, the more you can be aware.”

They said they hoped their testing would encourage others to come forward and do the same.

“I think people are hesitant,” Dunbar said. “It’s maybe seen as something that’s scary, or maybe you don’t need.”

The tests can be done in a matter of minutes, and the HIV and Hepatitis C tests even show results after 20. The other tests are sent to a lab, where they’re tested in around 2 weeks.

“If the results are positive, a nurse from the municipality will call you, schedule an appointment, to see about getting you treated,” Harvill said.

Identity generally hosts these clinics once a month, usually on the third Saturday. Their schedule can be found on their website.

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