Resources available to combat STDs among college students

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Overall incidents of sexually transmitted diseases have increased significantly, especially among individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a February 2004 report, the CDC and Family Health International found that nearly half of the nation’s new STD cases each year involve adolescents and young adults. The reports also estimated that in 2000, 9.1 million cases of STDs occurred in sexually active Americans in this age group.

The report also states that one in two sexually active youth will contract an STD by the age of 25.

Jennifer Ruth, a CDC spokesperson, said that there were approximately 18.9 million new STD cases reported in 2000 alone, with nearly half in the 15 to 24 age group. This age group represents 25 percent of the sexually active population, she said.

“It’s important to point out that these estimates are at a point in time and do not show trends over time,” Ruth said. “The estimates were made for 2000, although you will see that the study was published in 2004. The reason for this is that it takes some time from the end of data collection until the data has fully been analyzed.”

Through the Klotz Student Health Center Education and Resources On Sexuality program, CSUN students can educate themselves by learning through other students.

With its “Never Negotiate Naked” slogan, EROS allows students to make informed decisions, and become more conscientious of the choices they make.

The program focuses on educating individuals about reproductive health. EROS services vary, from group and individual contraception information sessions, individual counseling and referral, interactive presentations and “Ask EROS” in which an individual can confidentially ask personal questions online.

Amy Reichbach, a health educator from the health center and EROS staff coordinator, said peer education has been very effective. She said most students respond better to other students than to a faculty or staff member.

According to Reichbach, the top three reported STDs around campus are chlamydia, herpes and human papilloma virus.

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, according to the American Social Health Association. There are an estimated 3 million new infections of chlamydia each year.

ASHA also reported that more than 50 million adults in the U.S. have genital herpes, adding up to roughly one in five adults. ASHA estimates 1 million new cases each year. Almost nine in ten infected people are unaware they have genital herpes, and it is estimated up to 40 percent of men and half of all women could be infected by genital herpes, according to ASHA reports.

While HPV affects at least 6.2 million people each year in the U.S., according to ASHA, there are about 80 percent of all sexually active people have been infected at some point in their life and about 4.6 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 get HPV each year, nearly 74 percent of all new infections in the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Health Services, ulcerations and sores caused by STDs can provide greater vulnerability to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, to the blood stream.

Reichbach said for the most part, it is an ethical and moral issue to let one’s partner know about one’s sexual health prior to intercourse.

Natalia Koteva, a program coordinator and a Student Health undergraduate, said students are more likely to ask questions, whether on an individual counseling format or during their class presentations. She said students are more comfortable and more open to ask somebody who is just like them.

ASHA also reported that direct medical costs of treating STDs are more than $8.4 billion each year, not including the indirect cost of lost wages, productivity and human cost of anxiety, shame, anger and depression.

Reichbach said many students might have had some kind of health education prior to going college, but to many students, it was not that effective.

“A lot of (students) got (health education prior to going to college), but (it) was not well presented to them – their kind of questions were not answered,” Reichbach said.

She added that most people have the tendency to blame others for what happens.

“(We) usually tend to blame, but in actuality the person does not even know who gave the disease to them,” Reichbach said.

The peer counselors for EROS are cross-trained with the group Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs, Learning, Education, Resources Training (ALERT). Volunteers were selected in spring and undergo training during the summer. The peer counselors are committed in the program for one year.

Reichbach said many social activities could lead to risk taking and everyone should always consider the possibilities.

Kat English, senior psychology major, is on her first year with EROS as a peer counselor. Like the others, she trained for her new job over the summer.

“It’s a huge responsibility- (But) it makes me excited about the work; with the training I am more confident and prepared for the job,” English said.

Koteva said EROS presentations can vary, and are usually on birth control methods; with at least 90 percent of presentations on STDs and HIV, depending on the request.

According to Reichbach, the Klotz Student Health Center usually sees more women than men about reproductive health issues.

“Women have more reproductive challenges globally; the truth is – it’s stuck on (women),” Reichbach said. “(Women) bear the burden of reproduction.”

Joanne Angeles can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.