Each year in the United States, nearly 20 million sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diagnosed. Of those cases, approximately 10 million occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although this is an alarming statistic, there are precautions that can be taken to prevent contracting STDs.
In the case an STD is contracted, there are treatment methods available that are both private and effective. Even if the STD is not completely curable, doctors can prescribe medications to limit and control recurrent symptoms.
Because STDs most commonly affect young adults, it is no surprise that sexually active college students are at a higher risk of contracting an STD than other demographics. Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center found that one-in- four college students have an STD.
The high rate of infection among college students is usually linked to unprotected sexual intercourse.
Fifty-four percent of college students consistently use condoms during intercourse, and only four percent of them use condoms during oral sex, according to The National College Health Assessment Survey. Intoxicated individuals are also less likely to use preventative methods.
On the Plattsburgh State campus, the most common STDs diagnosed by the Student Health Center are chlamydia and herpes.
Chlamydia, the most reported STD in the U.S., is a bacterial infection that affects both men and women. Although many carriers show no symptoms, females may have abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Men may also notice discharge as well as pain in the testicles.
Herpes, on the other hand, is a viral infection that is spread through two types of viruses – herpes simplex type 1 and type 2.
Like chlamydia, most carriers do not know they have herpes because physical signs may be mild or appear months after infection. Herpes symptoms include blisters and sores on the genital area, flu-like feelings and itching or burning in the genital region. Both men and women are able to contract the virus.
Though outbreaks can be limited in both occurrence and severity, herpes can never be completely cured. The virus is always present, though it may remain dormant in the carrier.
In order to limit the chance of spreading the virus and decrease the frequency of outbreaks, “We use an anti-viral medication that has proved to be an effective treatment,” Student Health Center Director Kathleen Camelo said.
Letting STDs go untreated can lead to serious consequences. If chlamydia is not treated it may result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Camelo said.
In regards to herpes, Camelo added that an untreated case may be especially dangerous for women who are pregnant, as herpes can be passed from mother to child during birth.
Although it may be slightly uncomfortable, Camelo said she urges students to get tested regularly as a way of preventing STDs from spreading.
“We want it to be easy for students to be tested and treated,” Camelo said.
All the proper tests and treatments are available on campus at the Student Health Center, making it convenient for students with busy schedules and limited transportation.
PSUC sophomore Brianne Rogers said she believes testing clinics are good for the community. Growing up in a “liberal family”, Rogers said sex is something she believes is important to discuss.
“Sex isn’t a bad thing to talk about,” Rogers said.
Testing usually involves a simple urine test, after which students are notified privately with the results. During treatment, it is important “to make sure to avoid sexual contact,” Camelo said.
The results of the test are confidential; however, the Student Health Center and many other clinics are required by New York state to report the diagnosis of certain STDs to the NYS Health Department.
In New York, the only STDs that must be reported are syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Additionally, if a patient is diagnosed with an STD, they must report it to any sexual partners.
The Student Health Center can help with partner notification if confidentiality is a concern, Camelo said. They will notify partners, while keeping your identity anonymous.
Email Thomas Marble at firstname.lastname@example.org.