Dispatches from a College Sexpert: Smart, Sexy, & STI-free?
College students carry a lot of things: books, laptops, wallets, keys, backpacks…STIs (sexually transmitted infections). There are so many STIs that they, like your keys, can be hard to keep track of—even harder since many students don’t realize they have or are at risk for one. So, since we’re less invincible than we think, I’ve written up 8 things college students should know (and probably don’t) about STIs.
2) Testing is easy and cheaper for students, so strike while the iron’s hot and get in the habit of getting tested every 6 months. If you’re in a long-term monogamous relationship and you’ve BOTH been tested (and treated if you tested positive), you can bump it up to every year. Note that a Pap smear doesn’t test for STIs, so you should ask your doctor or local clinic directly about getting tested. You can also test for some STIs in your own apartment or dorm room with take-home kits.
3) It’s not just the people with tons of partners who get STIs—they’re easy to catch, there are a lot of them, and there are a lot of places you can get them, including from oral sex. STIs don’t just get in through the mouth and affect you down there; gonorrhea can grow in your throat and make it sore. (Maybe it’s not strep after all.)
4) The vaccine for HPV, which is already showing signs of having an effect on HPV rates, is now recommended for guys as well as girls.
5) Chlamydia and gonorrhea, even if they show no external symptoms, can turn into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can cause infertility. For the record, this doesn’t mean if you’ve had chlamydia or gonorrhea you don’t need to use birth control—most cases are easily treated and don’t turn into PID.
6) Using spermicide (without a condom) or having an untreated STI can irritate the lining of the vagina and other sensitive skin, making it easier to contract (other) STIs.
7) Most folks born in the U.S. were vaccinated for HBV (Hepatitis B) as babies, but HBV disproportionately affects people from Asian or Pacific Island countries, where vaccination policies may be different and rates of HBV may be high. If you or your parents were born in a country where HBV is common, you may want to get tested for it. HBV is an STI but can also be transmitted through birth and often causes liver cancer later in life.
8) There are some surprisingly common STIs that few people have even heard about, like mycoplasma genitalium or trichomoniasis. Both mycoplasma genitalium and trichomoniasis are curable but tricky to diagnose.
Tons of college student have or have had an STI and the best thing is to be proactive by getting tested every 6 months and using a condom with any type of sex. If you want even more information, check out our 5 Handy Facts for STD Awareness Month and 5 Facts for HIV Awareness Month posts. Good luck staying safe and don’t forget to get your birth control covered too!
“Banging a Pot to Keep in Step” image from Quinn Dombrowski.
Catherine Rivera is an intern for Bedsider. When she’s not counseling, teaching, researching or writing about sex and relationships, this Stanford University student can be found passing out condoms to her fellow students, mentoring middle school girls, indulging her sweet tooth , reading the news, or attempting to get inside the heads of her four younger brothers. Catherine doesn’t have a personal tumblr (yet), but you can follow her on twitter @cmrivera2013.
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