Get hip with herpes: the rundown on STDs

Megan Becker Assigning Editor

Meeting new friends, studying for finals week and finding a favorite pizza place is all part of the college experience, but let’s keep sexually transmitted diseases out of the mix.

The Centers for Disease Control reported people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of all new STD cases. Most college students fall into that range, making them more likely than most to get an STD.

The STD surveillance report by the CDC reported more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2019, when the data was last collected. The cases are up significantly since 2015, with chlamydia cases rising by 19%, gonorrhea by 56% and syphilis by a whopping 74%. 

Most common STDs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, can be cured with antibiotics and aren’t dangerous if they are treated correctly. More risky STDs, like HIV, do not have a cure, but have treatments to lessen the effects of the disease. 

However, the majority of STDs aren’t that scary — most people will get one at some point, reported Planned Parenthood. An STD is a disease, just like the common cold or the flu, the only difference is that it’s transmitted through sex. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions to prevent it.

Without mentioning that not having sex is the best way to avoid an STD, other practical options are male and female condoms and dental dams. These barriers prevent fluids from touching and some skin-to-skin contact, making it less likely to transmit STDs. 

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are great for vaginal and anal sex, while dental dams are designed for oral sex. Male condoms can be used for either, but make sure you buy unlubricated ones for oral sex.

There are also vaccinations available for hepatitis B and HPV which are both nearly 100% effective.

There are over a dozen types of STDs, all with unique symptoms. Some common signs include sores in the genital area, painful urination, unusual odor and fever, reported the Mayo Clinic.

However, Planned Parenthood reported that most people with STDs do not show symptoms and recommend that sexually active people get tested often, regardless if they are showing symptoms. 

How often you should get tested depends on your sexuality, gender and sexual activity. For example, the CDC recommends that men who have sex with other men and have multiple partners should be tested every three to six months.

On the other hand, all sexually active women younger than 25 are recommended to be tested at least once a year for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Planned Parenthood recommends talking to your health care provider about what works best for you. 

Untreated STDs can cause long term problems, so it’s always better to get tested sooner rather than later. Kent State University Health Services offers STD screening exams at the DeWeese Health Center. Planned Parenthood also offers STD testing, treatment and vaccines in Acorn Alley.

Megan Becker is an assigning editor. Contact her at [email protected]