Health officials remind U students to be wary of STDs

by Micah Johnson

During their summer orientations, University freshmen learn one in five of them will contract a sexually transmitted disease before they graduate.

Though some health officials say that statistic is blown out of proportion, they caution students should still be careful.

The figure is based on information from the American Social Health Association, said Peter Carr, epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health.

“It’s simply not true,” Carr said. “That is an estimate that one in five people will contract an STD in their lifetime.”

However, Carr said, 20- to 24-year-olds account for the highest number of reported gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in Minnesota, followed by 15- to 19-year-olds.

“Anyone that’s sexually active in those age groups should get tested for chlamydia yearly,” Carr said. “Many women who have chlamydia don’t know they’re infected. But if left untreated, it can result in permanent infertility.”

Carr said students are statistically more likely to acquire viral infections such as genital warts and genital herpes, which are incurable.

“Once you’re infected, you’re infected for life,” Carr said.

Zach Irons, a University freshman, said he’s careful to have safe sex because of the risks.

“(STDs) are out there, and they worry me. That’s why I always wrap it,” Irons said.

Dave Dorman, a Boynton Health Service health educator, said sexually active students often don’t know they’re infected with STDs.

“Take something like (genital warts). There could be a visible wart, but very often it’s invisible. It’s very hard to diagnose. Someone could have it and not know it,” Dorman said.

Dorman, also the adviser for Boynton’s SHADE group – Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education – said SHADE has helped keep the University student body sexually healthier than other colleges.

“I would say we’re pretty average. If anything, a little bit healthier,” Dorman said. “Lots of campuses aren’t doing much with sexual health information. We are really trying to get the word out, and we distribute 100,000 free condoms every year.”

But Dorman said condoms are not always foolproof.

“It’s definitely possible to get an STD even if you wear a condom. (Genital warts) can be transferred from skin-to-skin contact,” Dorman said.

Dorman said SHADE also encourages communication between sexual partners regarding their sexual histories.

Dorman said a typically overlooked option is abstinence. Students on campus are often unaware many of their peers do not have sex.

He said a 1998 study showed among undergraduate singles, 42 percent were not sexually active.

“A common perception is that all college students are being sexually active, but that’s not the case,” Dorman said. “It means that students are making their own choices for themselves.”

Math sophomore Anson Opara said he abstains for several reasons.

“It’s my choice,” Opara said. “I haven’t found the right girl yet.”

Micah Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]