It’s a little itchy in PDX

STD is a common acronym on college campuses, and no, it does not stand for software test design in this context; its definition is “sexually transmitted disease.”

Yes, they are common, very common. And yes, they can be scary. But Portland has many resources at hand for prevention and treatment. Education, though, is key. If you are sexually active then you need to know what to do and where to go.

There are many clinics in Portland that do STD screenings and checkups. In fact, right on campus the Center for Student Health and Counseling can do testing. Another great clinic that specializes in sexual health is Westover Heights Clinic on Northwest Flanders. And don’t forget about the abundance of resources available at Planned Parenthood.

SaferSTDTesting is an online service who teamed up with STDTestExpress. You take a questionnaire then visit one of their labs, give a blood or urine sample and within three days learn your results.

“[One of the misconceptions about STDs] is that it’s the end of the world. But it’s not. There are treatments and medication that make it not so bad,” said Crystal Teras from the Westover Heights Clinic staff.

Even though it most certainly is not the end of the world, prevention education is vital to decreasing the spread of STDs. Dr. Mark Bajorek, SHAC’s medical director and a family physician at OHSU, believes that communication is important.

“Talking about it. Before anything happens it would be good to say ‘hey I have this’ or ‘I have had it before’ and ask current partners if they have an STD,” Bajorek said. “Just stay informed and talk about it.”

According to centers of disease control and prevention, in 2014 there were 15,508 cases of chlamydia in Oregon, 9,283 of which were in Portland. The most common age group who got chlamydia was from college age individuals—those sneaky 20 to 24 year-olds.

Chlamydia is the most common notifiable disease in the United States and can be treated by antibiotics since it is a bacterial infection. Although easily treated, it should not go unintended because it can lead to bigger problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women.

Rest assured though, turns out Coach Carr from “Mean Girls” didn’t know what he was talking about. If you touch each other, you won’t get chlamydia and you won’t die.

How does someone know if they have chlamydia? The most common symptoms are typically: odd discharge from the vagina or penis, pain in the area down there or burning when going number one. Some people don’t have symptoms though, so it is advised to get a screening right after doing the nasty. If tested positive then it is advised to get a check-up in no less than three months.

Next on the list of common STD’s is gonorrhea, the second most commonly reported in the United States. Like chlamydia, it’s another bacterial infection which can be treated by antibiotics and its symptoms are similar to chlamydia—can you say copycat? Interesting though, the burning sensation you might feel is much less common in women with gonorrhea that chlamydia. Only 20 percent of women have this symptom.

Now back to the numbers: In 2014 Oregon had 2,320 cases of gonorrhea and in Portland alone there were 1,499 cases. And again, the most common were in the college age kids.

Now, this next STD is becoming quite popular in our city.

“There is an outbreak of syphilis in Portland,” Bajorek said.

Syphilis is another bacterial infection that has four stages: primary, secondary, latent and late syphilis.

This disease is also called a great imitator because it’s an impostor. The first outbreaks of syphilis look like either a cut, ingrown hair or a simple, harmless bump. This is in the first stage. By the second stage a rash on the body forms and is followed by sores in the mouth, vagina or anus.

By stage three, the symptoms of cuts and sores disappear and this stage can last for years.; 15 percent of people who go untreated will develop the last stage which can lead to organ and nerve damage. It can also lead to transmission and acquisition of HIV. But there is good news, since it’s a bacterium, if caught in time, it can be treated by antibiotics.

In 2014, in the state of Oregon there were 272 cases of syphilis, and in the Portland area there was 206 cases. To no surprise at this point, the cases were most commonly found in the college age of 20 to 24.

Last to mention, there is herpes simplex virus–HSV 1 or HSV 2–also known as your plain old herpes. HSV 1 and HSV 2 can both cause genital herpes, but it’s mainly found in HSV 2. Typically HSV 1 will cause cold sores. The symptoms–mainly found in HSV 2–are painful blisters around the penis, vagina, anus, mouth or eye areas. Not everyone with the virus will experience symptoms though.

Although the most common STD’s are technically chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, Teras encounters HSV 1 most frequently.

“Herpes type 1 is usually the most common and typically with symptoms of cold sores,” Teras said.

Herpes is easy to catch. According to Planned Parenthood skin-to-skin contact,
kissing and any type of sexual contact can spread the virus.

Unfortunately this isn’t a bacterial infection, this is a virus. A virus means that there is no cure. However, there are treatments and medication to help prevention of breakouts. Herpes is the most contagious when blisters and sores are apparent, but it can still be passed without them.

Use the resources available to you as a Portland State student and get tested at SHAC, or use resources available to you as a Portlander at one of the low-cost county clinics. Otherwise, make regular appointments with your doctor.

“People usually come in to get tested, usually after spring break when they went out and were with people they didn’t know, or for a three month checkup; when they just got out of a relationship, or when they moved away and want to start over,” Bajorek said.

Ignorance is not bliss, and there is plenty of help and support in Portland. Even if you aren’t making the beast with two backs, keep in mind that other sexy fun times can also cause the spread of STDs.

Just get tested regularly, okay?