Back from spring break – time to get tested for sexually transmitted disease

STD carriers don’t always show symptoms, leading to further spreading of the diseases.

Heather L. Mueller

Some students have hooking up in mind when traveling to warmer climates for spring break. But some come back to campus with unwanted souvenirs from their spring fling.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States, and Boynton Health Services reports the most common cases diagnosed and treated at the University are chlamydia, human papillomavirus – also known as genital warts – and genital herpes.

Boynton Health Service Director of Public Health Dave Golden said students aren’t always aware they’ve been infected because they don’t show symptoms but are carriers and spreading the STD.

“It’s always neck-and-neck between chlamydia and genital warts. They’re our front-runners,” he said.

There are more than 65 million people with an STD in the United States. And about 15 million people become infected with one or more STD each year, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Women are often unaware they have the disease because physical signs occur inside the vagina and are less visible than signs for men. And when it comes to chlamydia, men experience symptoms more often than women.

According to the Minnesota State Health Department there were 15,875 STD cases in 2005; 12,187 of them were for chlamydia.

Golden added that some STDs are transmitted by genital touching and not just oral sex or intercourse.

“As you increase the number of sexual partners you have, you increase the likelihood that you will encounter one or more of these bugs,” he said.

But according to a 2004 Boynton Sexual Behavior Study, University students have on average two partners or less a year.

“College students tend to be a lot healthier than we think,” Golden said.

It is recommended students get screened for STDs at their annual physical, before beginning a sexual relationship with a new partner or as symptoms arise.

But if there are no warning signs, some students feel they’re in the clear and don’t ask to be tested at annual exams for fear that their parents might find out about the tests.

Boynton Women’s Clinic physician Carol Nelson said STDs are quite common and fairly easy to treat, but fear or embarrassment gets the best of them.

Students can request a confidential screening, she said.

“People, of course for the most part, don’t go around talking about having a sexually transmitted infection, so people aren’t aware that their friends or other people they’re interacting with have had them,” she said. “So people feel alone.”

Aerospace engineering junior Jason Breeggemann said students think STDs are something that only happens to other people and it could never happen to them.

“Others avoid testing because they are either too lazy, or under the assumption that they would know if they had something bad,” he said.