College campuses are notorious for having the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. The high level of awareness that there is today makes it easy to avoid contracting these illnesses.
“STDs are absolutely a problem on college campuses,” said Tyler Junior College on-campus doctor Stephanie Eijsink, M.D. “Many students make their sexual debut in college. At that age, there are quite a few misconceptions about sexually transmitted diseases,”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 15 million cases of syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea occur every year in the U.S. Alarmingly, most of these cases happen to people between the ages of 15-30.
“In the last two months we have also seen a significant increase in syphilis, which is unusual for this area,” said Fatima de la Hoya, an LVN with the North East Public Health District.
Chlamydia is one of the most commonly spread STDs in the U.S. It is known as a “silent” disease since most infected people have no symptoms.
“The numbers of positive chlamydia tests that are confirmed are pretty high. The absence of symptoms is probably why it is unknowingly spread through unprotected sex by people who have this disease,” said de la Hoya.
Gonorrhea is also a very common infectious disease. The highest reported rates of infection in the U.S. are among sexually active teenagers, young adults and African Americans.
“I hate to say this, but I don’t really know much about gonorrhea or any of the other STDs. I guess I need more education about them. The word gonorrhea just makes it sound like it would really hurt, ” said Tyler Junior College sophomore Chelsea Hart.
The human papilloma virus, also known as HPV, is another common venereal disease. It is thought to be the most widespread STD, but since symptoms usually never appear it often goes undetected. Fortunately, a vaccine against it has become available in recent years.
“HPV is an epidemic,” said Eijsink.” Even if you have not been sexually active, I recommend getting the vaccine to prevent the spread of this disease.”
Sexually transmitted diseases are of course 100 percent preventable by abstaining from having sex. However, almost any college student will agree that this is an unrealistic approach and therefore protecting yourself is essential.
“Another common misconception is that condoms will completely prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but condoms will only lower the risk of these happening,” said Eijsink.
The on-campus clinic at TJC offers testing for sexually transmitted diseases, but patients are referred to another location for treatment.
“We refer patients to Total Healthcare here in Tyler for STD treatment,” said Eijsink.
The most important concept to remember in prevention is that the best way to lower the risk of contracting an STD is awareness and just being responsible.
“So many people think that contracting an STD won’t happen to them,” said de la Hoya. “They don’t realize how big of a problem these diseases are until they actually get one. Using protection and making smart decisions are a good way to avoid them.”
Too many people delay going to get tested for venereal diseases because they have heard that the tests are uncomfortable and embarrassing, maybe even painful.
“In today’s world, you can’t be cautious enough. Unfortunately, some young men and young women do not realize that,” said Eijsink. “My advice for them is this: just go get tested.”