Get educated on STDs

Part of the role of Health Enhancement Services is to educate students about safer sex behaviors that help to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, it is also important to understand when it might be a good idea to go to a health care professional to get checked for an STD. This can be a difficult judgment to make because STDs do not always have cause symptoms.

However, there are some general warning signs that indicate the possibility of a STD. These can include: burning on urination, the presence of bumps on the genital areas, discharge from the penis or a change in vaginal discharge, a change in the menstrual period or increase in menstrual cramps, and pain during intercourse. Some people who have had an STD do not experience the above symptoms even though the disease may be present. In general, “any change from the usual” in the genital area should be examined by a clinician.

According to Dr. Linda Liston, a physician in the University Health Service Gynecology Clinic, “if someone has symptoms or concerns about exposure to an STD, it’s important to make an appointment.”

STD testing is not difficult. For men: an appointment can be made with a clinician in the regular medical clinic at the Health Service. The genitals will be visually checked for any bumps or lesions that might indicate the presence of condyloma (genital warts) or herpes. Unless a sore is present, there is no good screening test for herpes. In addition, tests can be done for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and blood tests are available for hepatitis B, syphilis or HIV.

For women: a pelvic examination is done at the Gynecology Clinic with possible testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomonas. The genitals will be visually inspected. Blood tests can be performed if necessary. It’s important to know that being checked for STDs does not usually include a pap smear. A pap smear looks for abnormal cells to screen for cervical cancer.

If an STD is found, various treatments are available. Bacterial STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, syphilis) can be treated by taking antibiotics. The treatment of viral STDs (herpes, condyloma, hepatitis B, HIV)varies.

Exposure to STDs can be decreased through not engaging in sexual activities at all. Safer sex practices include using a condom at every intercourse, and not engaging in sexual activities that include genital, oral-genital or anal-genital contact. For more information about STDs call Health Enhancement Services (753-9755).

This article was written by Dr.Linda Liston, Health Service and Sarah Newton, graduate assistant at HES.