What the community needs to know about STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases spike on college campuses after school breaks and events such as homecoming that involve drinking. A medical diagnosis is necessary to determine if a person has contracted an STD. Cases of syphilis have been increasing. Courtesy of Riana Braselman

Students who observe abnormalities or suspect they may have a sexually transmitted disease are encouraged to visit the University Health Center. Appointments can be made on the Health Center’s website.

STDs include AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, trichomoniasis, chancroid, human papillomavirus, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, pubic lice and pelvic inflammatory disease. STDs spike on campus following breaks in school and when intoxication occurs. The fewest cases occur mid-semester during school. The age range of 20-24 years contains the highest number of reported cases. 

“Typically, it would be the beginning of the semester after they’ve been off for the summer, after homecoming, after Mardi Gras and maybe after the semester break typically and spring break,” said Angel Howe, a licensed practical nurse with the Health Center. “That’s typically when you see the biggest spikes,”

 

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According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 2015 Louisiana, the rate of women with chlamydia was 2.5 times greater than the rate of infected men. Of the 50 states, Louisiana was ranked first in rates of primary and secondary syphilis, first in gonorrheal infections and second in chlamydial infections. Of reportable STDs, chlamydia is the most prevalent on campus. Syphilis cases has been increasing. 

Students are advised to practice correct prevention methods. A “pull-out” method is ineffective since an STD such as chlamydia does not require ejaculation. Infection can occur during oral and anal sex as well. Vaccines exist for some diseases such as hepatitis B and HPV. Minimizing partners, communicating with a partner before sex and being sober can also help. 

“Always use a condom,” said Howe. “Always. Sometimes doesn’t work because sometimes is the one that’s going to get you in trouble. Always be aware. Be together. Don’t be too intoxicated that you can’t make a decision that’s appropriate. The biggest thing is either abstinence or always use a condom.”

Not every STD can be cured. Although treatments exist, AIDS and genital herpes stay with a person for life. 

“That’s one thing that I think could be stressed much more in any population that some of these diseases, you can’t just keep coming in every three months when you get it and get a pill or a shot,” said Donna Madacsi, a nurse practitioner. “That’s not going to work for herpes.”

Some STDs such as chlamydia or trichomoniasis often show no symptoms. A lab test and diagnosis are the first steps. 

“Follow-up is critical,” Madacsi explained. “At our clinic, we do ask them to come back, and we re-check their urine or we re-check whatever we’re needing to check to make sure that the medication worked because some people just think, ‘Well, I got my shot now. I’m good again,’ and then they get re-infected, or they were never cleared in the first place. Those are pretty basic things, but they’re not likely. They’re basic, but that’s the hardest thing to get people to do whether it’s cold, pneumonia or an STD.”

Without treatment, STDs can cause various harm to those infected. 

“If left untreated, they can cause chronic pelvic pain forever,” said Howe. “Male and female, they can cause infertility later in life. Syphilis can cause death. Herpes is there forever, and you can transmit whether you’re having an outbreak or not. They just need to know.”

Condoms can be picked up at the Health Center. The center screens for chlamydia,  gonorrhea and more recently HIV. STDs such as syphilis can still re-infect a person who has undergone treatment for a previous infection. Treatments are also at risk of becoming less effective with increasing resistance. 

“It’s still disconcerting to see people come in, some very young and then know they have to deal with these things for the rest of their life,” said Madacsi. “At least we can cure some of the others, but eventually, those medicines that we give are going to become resistant to the organism.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this article that was posted on lionsroarnews.com and printed in the August 22nd issue of The Lion's Roar, it was stated that AIDS stays with a person for life. HIV stays with a person for life. If left untreated, HIV will progress to AIDS. 

 

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