Op-ed: Take charge of your sexual health

By Anastasia Hale

As college students, we have a lot on our minds and a lot of issues we care about, so it’s easy to forget we also need to look after ourselves. A great way to take care of yourself and contribute to a better, healthier campus and community is by taking care of your sexual health. The health of your community depends on the good sexual health practices of every student—such as getting tested for STDs and having protected sex.

There are still a lot of myths about STD testing, so throughout April—STD Awareness Month—everyone should know that getting tested is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of their bodies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increased in 2014, and the truth is that STDs impact young people the hardest. Half of all STDs are contracted by people younger than 25, even though they’re only a quarter of the people having sex. Most STDs don’t have any symptoms and you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have one, so it’s important to know your risk and protect your health.

Getting yourself tested is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and it’s easy, quick and painless. For example, with just a swab inside the mouth, rapid HIV tests can give you results in as little as 20 minutes.

If you haven’t already, you should also talk with your partner about STD testing. One survey found that most young people said they would be glad if STD testing was suggested by their partner and that it reflects their partner’s responsibility. And if you have an STD, tell your partner. These conversations may seem hard to have, but open communication with your partner is essential to staying healthy and stopping the spread of STDs.

Preventing the spread of STDs is crucial too. Using condoms consistently and correctly provides the best protection against STDs—and can take a lot of the worry out of sex, since you and your partner won’t be worrying about unintended pregnancy or STDs. People who use condoms rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable as those who don’t, and it’s a good way to feel more relaxed about sex and have more fun.

So this month, make a plan to get yourself tested and keep yourself and your campus healthy. Visit PPCW.org to find a health center near you for STD testing, treatment and information to help you take charge of your sexual health.

Anastasia Hale is a student at PSU and a Portland Teen Council Intern at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.