Aug 252005
 
Authors: Kristen Majors

With and estimated 1,250 CSU students with a sexual transmitted disease, the lack of safe sex awareness is all too much a reality.

Deb Morris, CSU Director of Health Education, said the most common STDs on campus are Chlamydia and HPV. About 5 percent of CSU students are infected with one of these diseases.

"If students are sexually active, they ought to go ahead and make that commitment to protect themselves and their partners," Morris said. "Most people who are infected may not know that themselves. It's better for a person who is sexually active to make that decision to protect themselves."

Kathy Hutcheson, instructor and coordinator of sports medicine , believes the more people who are educated about STDs, the better.

"Educated people make better decisions about things," Hutcheson said. "The more people know about it, the more ways they can protect themselves, know what's available and know what the consequences are."

Hutcheson teaches Health and Wellness and always sets a day aside for STD education.

"I think (students) generally know the risks and some of the major diseases, but I don't think they know the details," Hutcheson said. "The more they know, the better. It's very important that they're educated on it."

Courtney Johnson, a senior business management major, has been educated on the subject through a Planned Parenthood program. She takes STDs into consideration and uses condoms as a preventative measure and has also been tested in the past.

According to the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention web site, Chlamydia is the most frequently reported STD in the United States, infecting 2.8 million Americans each year. The disease can be transmitted during vaginal, anal and oral sex, and is not usually accompanied by symptoms. Three-fourths of infected women and one-half of infected men have no symptoms at all, making it difficult for individuals to know whether they are infected or not.

If symptoms are present, they usually include abnormal vaginal discharge, burning while urinating, low abdominal pain, lower back pain, bleeding between menstrual cycles and pain during intercourse for women. Men usually experience burning while urinating, itching and burning around the opening of the penis and discharge from the penis.

Because of the lack of symptoms, an individual can be infected with Chlamydia for a long period of time without realizing they are infected. This causes serious complications from the disease to occur because of the lack of treatment. Women are at higher risk for serious complications than men and can be affected by Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), causing infertility and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy outside the uterus.

Teenage girls and young women are at a particularly high risk for Chlamydia because the cervix is not yet fully developed, and screening is recommended for sexually active women age 25 and under. Chlamydia is easily treatable with antibiotics once it is diagnosed.

The most common STD in the United States is Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. At least 50% of sexually active men and women will acquire genital HPV at some point in their lives. By the age of 50, at least 80% of women will have acquired a genital HPV infection.

HPV is a strain of viruses that includes more than 100 strains, more than 30 of which are sexually transmitted. The virus infects the genital area of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva and anus and the linings of the vagina, cervix and rectum.

The majority of people who acquire HPV will have no symptoms, and the infection will usually go away on its own, causing most people to never realize they were infected. Very rarely, HPV infection will result in genital or anal cancers. About 10 of the sexually transmitted strains of HPV can, but rarely do, lead to cervical cancer.

If symptoms are present, they will include genital warts or precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus or penis. HPV and precancerous changes in women are usually detected by Pap smears. There is no HPV test available for men. There is also no cure for HPV, but the infection will usually go away on its own.

STD testing and treatment is available on campus at the Hartshorn Health Center. An individual can receive testing and treatment either through the women's clinic or general medical division. Morris said the university is also taking steps to prevent further spread of STDs on campus.

"(We have) programs to try to educate people on how to protect themselves," Morris said. "Condoms are available at no cost at the health center."

For more information, go online to http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/nchstp.html.

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