If you choose to be sexually active, it is important and empowering to be educated on the (not so sexy) facts. Feel free to use this as a cheatsheet for the most common sexually related diseases and learn more about how to get tested and practice safe sex.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs that infect nearly 3 million Americans every year. It’s a bacterial infection that can be quickly cured with antibiotics, although most people do not show any symptoms. Left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious long-term health problems so make sure to be tested regularly. Chlamydia can be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
HPV or human papillomavirus refers to a group of over 150 related viruses that have a similar impact on the body. Some harmful types of HPV lead to genital warts, while others can generate cancer. According to the CDC, 80 percent of people will get some form of the HPV virus in their lifetime. But don’t worry, most HPV viruses are harmless and symptoms are minimal to nonexistent. The majority of HPV cases go away on their own, but others are much more serious. There are vaccines to preemptively protect against the cancer causing types of HPV. HPV is the most common STD and is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact.
Gonorrhea (sometimes referred to as “the clap”) is a very common sexually transmitted infection. It can easily be cured with antibiotics and those diagnosed can avoid the long-term health problems associated with the infection. The faster you know you have gonorrhea, the sooner it can be cured. Gonorrhea is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a virus. As an extremely contagious condition with no cure, the best way to protect yourself is to get the hepatitis B vaccine and have safe sex. Hepatitis B can be carried and transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as sharing needles and even toothbrushes and razors.
Herpes is an extremely common infection that has no cure. Aside from pesky sores, common cases of herpes have no serious health effects. There are two versions of the virus; herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 pertains to oral herpes that create cold sores around or on the mouth. HSV-2 concerns genital herpes, which creates similar sores in the genital region. According to the CDC, one in six Americans ages 14-49 have genital herpes. Keep in mind, many people with herpes show little to no symptoms and may not even know they have the disease. Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact.
HIV & AIDS
HIV testing is free at Penn State’s UHS facilities so there is no excuse not to get tested. HIV is a virus that stays in your body for life and is incurable. The virus breaks down your body’s immune system, leading HIV positive people prone to sickness and death from common illnesses. HIV can lead to the development of AIDS, a disease that causes dangerous infections. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV and eventually leads to death. HIV is spread through vaginal or anal sex, needles, or HIV-infected blood entering your body through open cuts or sores.
Getting Tested with University Health Services
VALLEY spoke with Robin Moussa, Schreyer’s Honors College senior and Vice President of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, who is heading a campaign to get STI testing free at UHS. “Penn State has a consistent problem not meeting student needs — especially when it comes to health care,” says Moussa. “We started digging into it a little more and discovered the huge impact that this campaign could have on our community.”
Currently, HIV is the only free testing on campus. Self-administered chlamydia and gonorrhea testing comes with a $30 fee and costs of other tests depend on the value of a student’s insurance. With an estimated 100 homeless students enrolled in the university and even more reliant on scholarships and lion pantry, Moussa believes that, “students shouldn’t have to choose between rent, groceries and health care.”
Keep in mind: it isn’t just the financial responsibility that discourages students from getting tested. “Another obstacle in addition to price is confidentiality,” explains Moussa. “Most students are listed under their parents insurance and there are confidentiality concerns that the testing may be sent back to their households”. Free STI testing would circumnavigate this issue and provide the necessary health services directly to students without any strings attached.
College students tend to have a naive attitude surrounding safe sex. Moussa informed us that there is a strong correlation between number of sexual partners and condom usage, “and it’s a negative correlation,” she says. “Therefore, the more partners you have the less likely you are to use condoms.”
To support the free STI testing at UHS campaign, sign the petition and look for Planned Parenthood Generation Action tables in the HUB. You can also be a part of the movement by supporting candidates in the upcoming UPUA election with a like-minded platform.
Lastly, Moussa reminds us of a simple fact, “It is so important to use condoms — every time you have sex, every time you change where penetration is happening (use multiple ones) and also get tested regularly — that is why testing should be easy and affordable.”