STDs on the rise across CSU, student tests increase

Emma Iannacone

Video by Emma Iannacone

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Sexually transmitted diseases have reached national record-breaking numbers for the fourth consecutive year, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but health officials at Colorado State University attribute the increase of cases on campus to increased reporting.

In 2017, 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were reported to the CDC, with 45 percent of cases among 15-24-year-old females. This is consistent with data health professionals at CSU have documented.

According to Dr. Cherie Worford, the clinical supervisor of the Women’s and Gender Care clinic, the most commonly seen infection on campus is chlamydia, but gonorrhea has made its way around, too. But it’s difficult for the CSU Health Network to track whether the rates of STDs are rising due to an increase in testing, Dr. Worford said.

“We have seen an increase in that we feel we’re having more students test, so we’re seeing more positive results,” Dr. Worford said.

This infographic relays information regarding the rising rates in STD’s (Meg Metzger-Seymour | Collegian)

Chlamydia became a reality for third-year student, Anton, whose last name is being withheld to maintain his anonymity. Anton said when he arrived back from winter break, he received a text from a former sexual partner that she had an STD.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’ because at the time I was like, ‘Is this something I can cure?’” Anton said. “At the time I didn’t really know what chlamydia was.” 

While Anton was able to receive treatment, he said he got chlamydia again a few months later.

“I think maybe someone that I hooked up with passed it to someone, who passed it to someone, who passed it to someone, who passed it back to me,” he said.

Through initiatives like the Get Yourself Tested campaign, students are encouraged to get tested after every new sexual partner to avoid passing STDs to future partners. Dr. Worford also encourages condom use with all sexual activities, including oral sex, vaginal sex and anal intercourse.

Anton said his experience changed the way he thinks about his sexual health.

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“I’ve definitely wanted to get tested more regularly, so I’ve tried to make a habit out of it,” Anton said. “I make a point to wear a condom, but even then, sometimes you can still get it.”

Dental dams and female condoms are available at the Health Center for students to protect from oral infections.

While Dr. Worford has seen an increase in contraception specifically to prevent pregnancy, such as IUDs and birth control pills, condom usage has fallen “out of favor” because people feel protected.

“People don’t like them. That’s probably the biggest complaint we get,” Dr. Worford said. “People say that condoms aren’t that much fun, but I would also argue that most infections aren’t that much fun.” 

While people who are sexually active should get tested regularly, that isn’t always a reality for college students, Dr. Worford said. She believes the primary reason people avoid testing for STDs is fear — fear of an invasive exam, of parents finding out through insurance and of the actual results.

If you are concerned you’re at risk for an STD, you can take a self-assessment quiz at STDWizard.com or make an appointment with the health center by calling 970-491-7121.

But for Anton, the process of getting tested and receiving treatment was easier than he expected.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both bacterial infections that are treated with antibiotics. Testing only requires a urine sample. 

“It’s way simpler than I ever could have thought it would have been,” Anton said.

Anton said telling his mother about his infection was difficult, but by talking with her about it, he said it’s made it easier to talk openly with her about his sexual health. 

“I had some friends who had chlamydia, and they weren’t as open with their parents because they felt like they couldn’t be and it was a lot harder for them to get treatment,” Anton said.

Dr. Worford said that there are ways around having to talk with parents if it’s a concern for students. By having the insurance company send the explanation of benefits to the student’s address instead of the parents’, they can potentially avoid telling their parents.

Students can also get free testing at the Alpha Center if insurance or out of pocket payment isn’t an option.

Regardless of fear, it’s important for people to get tested for STDs because they can often be asymptomatic like it was for Anton and his partner.

“I hadn’t had any physical signs of it and she hadn’t had any physical signs of it,” Anton said.

According to the CDC, untreated STDs “can lead to severe adverse health effects that include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants, and increased HIV risk.”

Emma Iannacone can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EmmaIannacone. 

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