Health Services offers education for Valentine’s Day

By Sable Stevens

This Valentine’s Day, students considering taking their
relationships to the next level should be aware of how to protect
themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

STDs are common within the young adolescent and adults age group
of 15 to 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention.

Experts in the field of public health have suggested replacing
STD with the term sexually transmitted infection, or STI, because
STD implies an obvious sign or symptom, whereas most common STDs
can be easily overlooked, according to the American Social Health
Association.

According to the CDC, there are more than 25 diseases
transmitted through sexual activity. The most common STIs in the
United States are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes,
human papillomavirus, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis, bacterial
vaginosis and HIV.

The age groups at the greatest risk for acquiring an STI are
adolescents and young adults.

The CDC reports approximately 19 million new infections occur
each year, with almost half of them among people ages 15 to 24.

In 2008, females ages 15 to 19 years old and 20 to 24 years of
age had the highest rates of gonorrhea, while females ages 15 to 19
had the highest numbers of reported cases and rates of chlamydia,
followed closely by women 20 to 24 years of age, according to the
CDC.

Students who wish to get tested for STIs can do so at the
Student Health Center.

“You can get STI tested anytime,” said Fernando Diaz, health
educator at Student Health Services. “You can come in as a walk in
or with an appointment, or you can come into our free HIV clinic,
but it is only for HIV testing. If you want to get tested for
Chlamydia or Syphilis, you will have to go through the Health
Center.”

The Wellness Center offers free HIV testing every Tuesday from
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. HIV testing any other day will cost $20.

On average, the Wellness Center will see eight or nine students
for HIV testing on Tuesdays. These numbers can get as low as four
students, and sometimes as high as 15 or 16, Diaz said.

“Right after Valentine’s Day we will get slammed,” said Diaz.
“After spring break or after a long break, people will want to come
back and get tested.”

Students who come to the Wellness Center and Health Center for
testing generally visit for the testing services, rather than
prevention or education.

“Students are generally more concerned about making sure they do
not have an STI rather than about prevention,” said John Tsai, a
staff physician at Student Health Services.

The Wellness Center promotes prevention by offering their
Facebook group page members six free condoms every week and all
students 10 condoms for $1.

Diaz made it clear the condoms are reputable brands such as
Trojan, Durex and Lifestyles, and said there is no reason why any
student should be without condoms.

“We will see the same people come in for the same testing. It
might be because they engaged in a behavior that was high risk, and
their results came back negative, and they feel they can do it
again,” said Diaz. “I guess it seems like something has to happen
for them to engage in more responsible behavior. Prevention is more
important, because treatment, by that time, is a little too
late.”

Students have their own views about STI prevention.

“I definitely do not want [STIs]. I’ve taken enough sex-ed
classes where I feel comfortable with the knowledge I have,” said
Mitchell Pass, a third-year business marketing student.

Dahlia Gerges, a first-year foods and nutrition student,
believes using protection is a must when engaging in sexual
activity.

“I definitely believe in practicing safe sex because you never
want to take a risk. It’s not worth it,” she said. “Most [STIs]
stay with you forever and no one wants to have that.”

Tsai said staff of the health center would like students to
remember that educating themselves is the most important part of
preventing the spread of STIs.

“The one important tip students should take into consideration,
if they enter into a sexual relationship, is that every act of sex
carries some risk for contracting a STI,” said Tsai.

“Students can take steps to reduce these risks but cannot
completely eliminate them. It is best to gain knowledge and
understand the risk and possible consequences before becoming
sexually active.”

For more information on STIs, visit the American Social Health
Association’s Web site at www.ashastd.org.

Reach Sable Stevens at: news@thepolypost.com

Health Services offers education for Valentine

Illustration by Roland Tran

Health Services offers education for Valentine’s Day

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