Chlamydia determined most commonly tested-for STI at UWO

Morgan Van Lanen, Editor-in-Chief

One in two sexually active persons will contract a sexually transmitted infection by the age of 25, according to the American Sexual Health Association.

Although this is a national statistic, STIs are common at the local level, too. It’s not just happening amongst prostitutes or in big cities or between people who are having sex with multiple partners.

It’s the kid who sits next to you in class or the person you eat lunch with at Reeve Memorial Union. Or, it could even be you.

A UW Oshkosh student who requested to remain unnamed in this article said they contracted chlamydia two years ago after being cheated on by their significant other.

“It was my sophomore year,” the unnamed source said. “My then-girlfriend went down to spring break and caught chlamydia from someone else. I didn’t find out that she had cheated on me until a few days after she got back, so obviously I contracted it too. I broke up with her when I found out, then she sent me a Twitter [direct message] over two weeks later. I went and got tested and actually tested negative the first time. Right after I got my negative test, my new partner called me and told me she tested positive, so I went back and got re-tested and, sure enough, I had it.”

Twenty million people are tested positive for STIs each year, according to UW Oshkosh Student Health Center director Pamela MacWilliams. Furthermore, 50 percent of people who have STIs are between the age of 15 and 24.
Yet, according to recent findings, students at UWO are being sexually active and choosing not to use condoms when having intercourse.

A survey was conducted and distributed through Facebook for the purpose of obtaining information for this article. Forty-one people between the ages of 19 and 25 filled out the survey. According to responses, 88.8 percent of people who answered the poll are either currently sexually active or have been in the past.

However, only 24.4 percent said they are taking measures to prevent STIs (male condoms, female condoms, etc.) every time they have sexual intercourse. Perhaps even more frightening, just 51.2 percent of survey-takers said they have gotten an STI screening before (urinating in a cup, culture sample, etc.).

Some of the reasons for choosing not to take measures to hinder the chance of an STI included, “Feels better without,” “Condoms feel weird,” “Ruins the mood” and “It can be a hassle.”

STIs in recent years

Although STI numbers have not gone down in recent years, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis numbers have all been on the rise since 2016, MacWilliams said she has actually seen fewer students test positive since she started working here.

“It’s not a severe problem, but it’s a concern like it is everywhere,” MacWilliams said. “STIs are most common among people between the ages of 15 and 24 and [UWO] just happens to be within that age population.”

MacWilliams also added how college can be the first time away from the constant supervision of parents for many students, which can lead to them trying new things.

“Overall, this is a time when people are exploring their sexual awareness,” MacWilliams said. “It really is best if you just talk about it with your partner beforehand. What is your plan? It’s really a time for you to say, ‘I want to be a sexually healthy person.’ If you plan for your sexual health, there’s a less chance you’re going to transmit an infection.”

HPV vaccine

In the United States, human papillomavirus or HPV, is the most common STI, MacWilliams said. Oftentimes HPV will lead to cancer; the most common being cancer of the anus, cervix and penis. Currently, the national trend is HPV cancer of the throat and mouth due to oral sex, MacWilliams said.

However, the up and coming HPV vaccine is beginning to hugely avert vaginal, penile, cervical, anal and throat cancers, MacWilliams said.

“It’s for both men and women and it’s the first vaccine ever that prevents cancer,” MacWilliams said.

The vaccine is most effective when given to adolescents between the ages of nine and 14 as a two-dose series separated by six to 12 months, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The UWO Student Health Center does not offer the vaccine to students because of how costly it is.

However, adults are encouraged to get it later in life if they didn’t receive the vaccine at a younger age.

“Up until you’re 25,” MacWilliams said. “Even if you’re sexually active.”

STI testing at UWO

Although HPV is the most frequently found STI nationally, at a more local level, chlamydia is the most-tested-for STI at UWO.

In the survey that was conducted for this article, two people of the 41 who completed the poll said they had contracted an STI before. One person reported they once had gonorrhea and the other said they have had chlamydia.

Between June 4, 2017 and April 25, 2018, the Student Health Center ran a total of 864 STI tests. The Health Center encouraged students to come get tested for free earlier in April and ran 185 tests, MacWilliams said. Fourteen people tested positive for an STI and all of them were asymptomatic.

Being asymptomatic is not uncommon, which is why so many people go untreated, MacWilliams said. The unnamed source said their body didn’t show any indications of having an STI.

“I didn’t actually have any symptoms, which is why I initially believed the negative test,” the source said. “If it weren’t for my next partner getting tested, I would’ve never known I had it.”

Of the 864 total STI tests at the Student Health Center, 758 were testing for chlamydia, according to lab reports from the center. Vaginal swabs for women or urine tests for both men and women are what test for chlamydia.

At UWO, the majority of the tests are urine tests, and the results come back in three days, MacWilliams said.

According to the CDC, chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the U.S. The CDC’s website states that 1,598,354 cases of chlamydia were reported in the U.S. in 2016, however, the department estimates 2.86 million infections occur annual. So many cases are left untreated because many people show no symptoms, MacWilliams said.

This is why it is so important to be tested on an annual basis, especially while being sexually active, MacWilliams said. However, the fear of having parents find out may be what stops young people from being tested, the director of the health center said.

“There are so many resources,” MacWilliams said. “You can come here for an STI test and you can get free condoms here. You can go to Planned Parenthood and they have a lot of resources. You can go to your physician back home, but you don’t have to go to where your parents are going.”

Health Advocates and STIs

The Student Health Center on campus is not the only resource UWO students can utilize when in need of help. Rather, the Health Advocates in each of the dorms can answer questions and supply things like condoms to students living on campus.

Juliana Kahrs, the Health Promotion Coordinator at the health center, helps train the HAs each year. She said the HAs are vital in helping assist and educate students on the topic of sexual health and are trained on a variety of topics, such as STI prevention, how STIs are contracted, the most common STIs amongst college students and more.

HAs are also educated on the approach they should take if a student comes to them with concerns that they may have an STI, Kahrs said.

“The Health Advocates do not diagnose and treat, but rather they assist and educate,” Kahrs said. “Health Advocates will recommend the student get tested at the health center or at the student’s preferred healthcare provider. Most individuals who contract an STI won’t know it because there won’t be any symptoms. So if the student had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, they would recommend the student to get tested.”

HAs can even physically help students make a plan, Kahrs said.

“Health Advocates might show students how to make their appointment online at the Student Health Center using the Student Health Portal,” Kahrs said. “They would offer barrier methods for the future: male and female condoms and/or dental dams. The HA will also recommend that, if the student were to test positive, they should inform their partners. If they want to tell them anonymously, they could use a website like”

The unnamed source said their biggest piece of advice to students who are sexually active is to be smart about using measures to prevent STIs and to take responsibility if they give their partner an STI.

“Honestly, if you’re just hooking up, use a condom,” the unnamed source said. “I understand if you choose not to with a longtime partner, but be honest with that partner if that’s the case. The other big thing is if you happen to get an STI, please tell those you’ve infected. My ex-girlfriend may have cheated, but at least she told me she had tested positive so I knew. It’s embarrassing, but if you think you infected someone else, they deserve to know. Do the right thing.”