Despite some increased knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases, sexual infections remain an issue on college campuses throughout the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s March 23, 2007 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report identifies genital human papillomavirus as the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and an estimated 6.2 million people are newly infected every year.
Amy Reichbach, health educator at the Klotz Student Health Center, said students who come in to be seen, usually for the first time, often suffer from very advanced and severe cases of the viral disease.
“Due to a lack of high school education, students come onto college campuses uninformed of (how) STDs spread and how these infections can be prevented,” said Amanda White, senior biology major and student health center worker. “And they also tend to become promiscuous.”
Although the majority of HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms, some infections can cause cervical cancer in women as well as cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis and anus and genital warts in women and men, the CDC reports. Of the approximately 100 HPV types that have been identified, more than 40 infect the genital area. Enter GARDASIL, an HPV vaccine manufactured by Merck and Co., Inc.
“I’d like to see more research and have more questions answered about the HPV vaccine,” Reichbach said. “For example, once you have the vaccine, what about risk factors for the other various strains (of the virus) that may or may not cause cancer?”
The March 16 MMWR reports gonorrhea infection is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the country. In fact, the report goes on to state reported gonorrhea incidence rates have been stable or declining since 1996, but the national rate increased in 2005 for the first time since 1999. Eight western states reported more than 25 percent increases in the rate of gonorrhea from 2000 to 2005 and reported more than 500 cases of gonorrhea in 2005 in California. Alaska, California and Nevada had increases of more than 50 percent.
Informational reading material found in the student health center and provided by the Los Angeles County STD Program describes gonorrhea as a sexually transmitted infection one can catch from having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the disease. Signs to look for include a white, yellow or green drip from the penis, vagina or anus, and burning or painful urination. Left untreated, gonorrhea can spread through the body, leaving men and women unable to have children.
White, stressing the importance of student education, said most students aren’t aware of resources the student health center provides, such as Family Pact, which aims to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs through STI screening, pap smears and birth control.
“Essentially, there’s nothing between high school and college to stop students from spreading disease,” she said.