The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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STDs: Silent menace of modern college life

No one knows the exact number of STD infections at CSUN, but statistics indicate there are a lot out there. Though college students are probably aware of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, they continue to spread through the campus population, according to campus health officials.

People who contract a sexually transmitted disease can go for months, even years, without any symptoms or any idea that they have been infected. That provides plenty of opportunities for sharing when people switch partners or do not use protection.

“The national statistic is that one in five students has or has had (an) STD in their college career,” said Amy Reichbach, a health educator at the Klotz Student Health Center. “So, let’s figure 33,000 students at CSUN, times 20 percent. That’s roughly 6,600 students with STDs.”

The three most common STDs on campus are chlamydia, herpes and human papillomavirus, Reichbach said.

“I’d much rather see you with chlamydia than the other two, because I can cure it in seven days,” she said. The other two STDs are viruses and must be dealt with for the rest of a patient’s life. “There were 18.9 million new cases overall in 2000. Forty-eight percent were 15-to-24-year-olds. That’s 25 percent of the sexually active population,” she said.

Actual numbers for incidences of STDs on campus aren’t available.

“We don’t have data on the students of CSUN,” said Sharon Aronoff, a health educator at the student health center. Certain diseases are reported to the county, but the only identifiers are age range and region, she said.

Location and social status plays a role in the prevalence of STDs on a campus.

“The area around CSUN is suburban, but commuters give elements of the urban,” Reichbach said. “So we might have lower rates than USC, but higher than the University of Spokane (Washington State University Spokane).”

A recent study out of Emory University in Georgia showed college freshmen were almost 70 percent more likely to test positive for chlamydia than students in the 20-to-24-year-old age bracket, said Jennifer Ruth, a health communications specialist for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Ruth works with the CDC’s national center for HIV and STD prevention.

“America’s youth continue to be significantly and disproportionately impacted (by STDs),” Ruth said.

Chlamydia and syphilis are on the rise, but cases of gonorrhea are falling, as stated in the CDC’s 2004 fact sheet “Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States.” Between 2003 and 2004, cases of Chlamydia increased by 6 percent, while syphilis cases rose by 8 percent. Gonorrhea dropped by 1.5 percent. Syphilis is increasing in males, not females, and has been doing so for the last four years. The CDC cautions that these are only the reported cases, and that these diseases occur more frequently than statistics show.

What is a hormone-ridden college student to do? How can students avoid becoming statistics?

“Education, prevention and treatment, though at that point it’s really damage control,” said Reichbach, describing how the health center tries to cope with STDs.

She said when undergoing treatment, it is important that students take the full regimen of their prescription.

“We’re seeing mutation with resistance; people quit the antibiotics before the full regimen runs. We need to kill every single bug,” she said.

It is also important to return for follow-up exams, to be totally sure that the infection is completely gone.

“Just get another test done and make sure it’s really gone. A, you don’t want to live with it, and B, you don’t want to spread it,” Reichbach said.

Since many STDs show no symptoms, it is important that people who find they have been infected inform their partners.

“You have a moral obligation to notify past partners. Then the ball is in their court,” she said.

If the thought of facing old partners is too much to bear, the city of Los Angeles does have an anonymous partner notification program. An infected person can call the hotline, and give the names and phone numbers of people they may have infected. An automated message will then be sent to those people, allowing them to seek treatment. The infected person’s name is never released.

Another way to help stop the spread of STDs is to talk. The health center has a slogan: “Never negotiate naked.” Communicate with partners, discuss any risks, and have any abnormalities checked before the point of no return.

“Anything that smells bad, not like your body usually smells. Lovely colors are another clue; green or yellow usually means infection. Pain is always bad,” Reichbach said.

People sometimes ignore symptoms, hoping that they will go away.

“Our bodies try to communicate with us, but we don’t always listen. Our bodies are designed to bring us pleasure, not hurt. Pay attention!,” she said.

We all know STDs are out there. Protect yourself, and your partners. Condoms and information about other forms of protection are available at the health center.

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