By Erin O’Connor
Special to the Comment
Every day, more than one million people worldwide acquire sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Formerly known as sexually transmitted diseases, STIs, caused by more than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites, are predominantly spread through vaginal, oral, and anal sexual contact. All STIs are treatable, and many are curable.
Of these pathogens, eight have been linked to the greatest incident of illness, while four: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, are currently curable. Four others, HPV, HIV, hepatitis B, and herpes, can be improved with treatment. Left untreated, some STIs can cause infertility, increase cancer risk, and be potentially fatal.
Half of sexually active individuals will become infected with a sexually transmitted infection before age 25, yet many infected aren’t aware of their condition. Many students know common symptoms of STIs include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge in men, genital ulcers, and abdominal pain.
However, when surveyed, many students don’t know the majority of STIs often show no signs or symptoms at all. In fact, that’s why the term STI became preferred over STD- because you can have the infection without disease symptoms.
The only way to know if you or a partner has an STD is to get tested. While there is no single test that can screen for all STIs, your healthcare provider will be able to recommend tests based upon prevalence, age, sex, and sexual history.
Bridgewater State University’s Student Health Services, located on the first floor of Weygand Hall, provides testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Or, visit FindSTDTest.org to locate the STD testing locations near you. Many of these testing centers, such as Planned Parenthood, operate on a discounted/sliding fee schedule to accommodate everyone.
Putting off getting care for an STI can have lasting health effects-for instance, having an untreated STI increases your risk of getting HIV and other STIs if exposed during sex with an infected partner. If you are sexually active, getting tested for STIs regularly is a part of hygiene, just like brushing your teeth and showering.
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