It’s April, so don’t leave home without an umbrella — and another form of protection. April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, which is particularly important on college campuses.
Why? Because one in two sexually active people will contract an STD by the time they are 25. And most of them won’t know it.
The most common bacterial STD in the United States is chlamydia, and the highest rates are in young people. What are the symptoms? In up to three-quarters of women with chlamydia, they are … nothing. About half of infected men are asymptomatic as well.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection, which means it can be treated with antibiotics, so what’s the big deal?
Well, it’s not a big deal if you know you have it. But if you are part of the majority that doesn’t show any symptoms, you can be infected for years before realizing you’ve contracted it.
Having chlamydia or any STD increases your vulnerability of getting another STD, including HIV. Plus, in women, the bacteria can spread into the uterus and cause infertility.
So what are you going to do about it? Abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent STDs, but if you are going to have sex, then you should know that latex, polyurethane or polisoprene condoms and dental dams are highly effective against chlamydia.
Even if you use protection every time it’s still important to get tested every year or after ending a sexual relationship.
Chlamydia testing isn’t scary or uncomfortable. Anyone can just pee in a cup, or women can get a swab during their pap smears.
These tests also can screen for gonorrhea with the same sample, which happens to be the second most common bacterial STD.
It’s also important to talk to your partner. While it may be hard to bring up, talking about STDs is a part of a healthy sexual relationship.
A new study in the United Kingdom found that 70 percent of young people said discussing STD testing with a partner was the most important sign that a relationship would last, ranking it even higher than meeting the parents.
How do you start that conversation? Do it before you get hot and heavy. Tell them about an interesting STD fact you heard, mention that you were thinking of getting tested and were wondering if they had ever done it before, or show them this article. You can even suggest doing it together.
There will be a free chlamydia/gonorrhea testing event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday in the Student Union, open to students and the general public. Make it a date!
Students can always pay to be screened at Campus Health Services, or anyone can get a range of free tests at the Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina in Durham. To reach the Alliance, call them at 919-596-9898, ext 316.
The health department will also do free chlamydia screenings for women and free treatment for anyone who tests positive.
Celebrate STD Awareness Month by getting tested. It will be the easiest test you take all year!
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