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STD Testing Overlooked for South Asian Women: Activist

Women in Toronto’s South Asian community are not being tested for sexually transmitted diseases during checkups as consistently as other women, a health activist says.

Jag Parmar, who works as an HIV/AIDS case worker with the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, says many doctors from South Asian backgrounds neglect to order tests concerning the sexual health of their patients.

Parmar said there are cultural reasons for the oversight.

Some doctors, she said, who came to Canada from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka are ignoring tests for common sexually transmitted diseases in South Asian women because of the belief there’s no sex before marriage.

"There are many doctors, just because you’re not married, when you’re doing the physical, they’ll just go down the checklist and just tick no, without asking. And sometimes the mom is in the room. How are you going to have that conversation?"

South Asian women often go to the doctor accompanied by their husbands, Parmar said, and often it’s the husbands who tell the doctors their wives don’t need the tests.

Parmar said doctors treating women from the South Asian community need more training in sexual health.

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