STDs and STIs on the rise among students

Lydia Westedt, Assistant News Editor

The UW Oshkosh Student Health Center on campus is offering free STI testing through Oct. 4 as part of the Red Zone awareness campaign.

The Red Zone occurs during the first six weeks of school when sexual assaults are statistically more likely to happen.

Director of the UWO Student Health Center Karen Sanchez said for STIs, “The college-age young adult is the population most affected.” According to Sanchez, the most common STI is chlamydia.

While chlamydia can affect both men and women, it poses a threat to women because it can cause “serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s website explains that if chlamydia is not treated properly, it can be difficult or impossible for the woman to get pregnant later in life. Thankfully, “chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment,” according to the CDC.

Symptoms of chlamydia can include a “burning sensation while urinating” or abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina.

Although it is important to know the symptoms of STIs, Sanchez said, “Many young adults are infected and asymptomatic.”

“We have free chlamydia and gonorrhea tests the week of [Sept. 30],” Sanchez said. “Students may register by calling the clinic.”

Sanchez explained that one way students can prevent themselves from contracting an STI is to “use condoms every time you have sex.”

“They are not 100% effective but will greatly reduce the chance of getting an STI,” Sanchez said.

The CDC website points out that even those who use condoms may not be using them the right way. Using oil-based products like baby oil or lotion as a personal lubricant can cause condoms to break.

However, the CDC notes that using water- or silicon-based lubricant instead will lower the odds of breakage.
In addition, the CDC advises always checking the expiration date and examining the condom for rips and tears before sex.

Do you have condoms in your wallet? If so, be warned: Storing condoms in your wallet may cause heat and friction, which can damage and wear down the condom, causing it to be ineffective, according to the CDC website.

STIs, including less common types like gonorrhea and syphilis, are on the rise. A press release published Aug. 28, 2018 on the CDC’s website reported that from 2013-17, cases of gonorrhea went up 67% and syphilis went up 76%.
“Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are curable with antibiotics, yet most cases go undiagnosed and untreated,” according to the press release.

Infection with certain STD’s and STI’s resulting in sores or breaks in the skin can also increase your chances of contracting HIV.

“In the United States, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes often also have HIV, or are more likely to get HIV in the future,” according to the CDC website.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, spreads through body fluids and attacks the T cells of the infected host, making it harder to fight off infections, diseases and cancer, according to the CDC. If left untreated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.

People infected with HIV may experience flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after infection, which may last for a few weeks. According to the CDC, the host is highly contagious during this first stage. The final stage of the illness is AIDS, and without treatment, people with AIDS typically only survive three years.

No cure currently exists for HIV/AIDS, but antiretroviral therapy can control the disease, according to the CDC.
Students are encouraged to utilize the UWO Student Health Center for STI testing.

“We are able to collect samples for all STIs,” Sanchez said. “Some tests give rapid on-site results while others we send to outside lab and get results in a day to several days.”

Aside from the Student Health Center’s free chlamydia and gonorrhea tests during the week of Sept. 30, in-house lab tests have a regular fee of $20 as well as a $15 fee for syphilis testing.

Are you wondering if you should get tested? The CDC advises that people ages 13 to 65 years old should be tested for HIV at least once. Also, sexually active women under 25 years old should get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea and should be tested more frequently for HIV at every three to six months, according to the CDC.

Although the CDC’s website does not contain recommendations for STD/STI testing for heterosexual men, it is still beneficial to be tested for STDs and STIs to prevent spreading the infection to new partners.

The UWO Student Health Center is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Students who wish to be tested for STDs and STIs can call the clinic at 920-424-2424. Bella Medical Clinic, 1484 W. South Park Ave. in Oshkosh also offers free STD/STI testing.

This article was updated to include the current Health Center hours.