Being sexual with your partner or someone you’re highly attracted to is all fun and games until one of you has tested positive for sexually transmitted infections.
If you read that sentence and thought, “Wait…people actually get tested?”, you are not alone. No, you are not the only one reading this who’s never been tested. In fact, one of the most common errors in a sexual relationship is not taking STIs seriously.
So what are STIs? These are infections transmitted through sexual contact. Yes, that means any contact, and not just sex.
America is the country with the highest STI rates. Those within the ages of 15–24 account for about 50 percent of these infections. Average college students typically fall within this age range, which means that a significant number of us could already have or are at risk of having STIs.
But how do we know if we are positive or not?
Another reason why most people just assume they aren’t infected is because STIs rarely have any signs or symptoms, and when they do they’re mild. For women especially, STIs can easily be mistaken for something else such as urinary tract infection. The only way to really know for sure is to get tested.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Do I really have to get tested? I feel perfectly fine and healthy.”
The answer is yes. Not many think it is a big deal, but it actually really is. STIs are like cancer. Sometimes they can be cured, and sometimes they can’t. If not treated, bigger health issues can arise such as infertility, organ damage, or certain kinds of cancer. It can even lead up to death.
So where do we get tested?
For a Portland State student, PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling might be your first choice. They offer routine testing for STIs as long as you are taking five or more credits. Another option would be getting tested through the Multnomah County Health Department STD Clinic.
At your appointment you can expect to either get a blood or urine test, a physical examination for signs of infections, or samples of discharge or fluid.
If you test positive, you will mostly be prescribed medication to treat your infection. If your STI cannot be cured, you will still be provided medicine to help reduce your symptoms.
Lastly, whether you tested negative for STIs, or you didn’t get tested but have an absolute gut feeling that you aren’t infected, you still want to be able to prevent future infections.
Of course, the ultimate prevention would be abstinence, but we all know college students aren’t big fans of that.
Thus, contraceptives such as condoms would be your next bet. When used correctly they help protect you from STI exposure, especially if you do not know your sexual partner’s history.
Condoms are provided for free in the SHAC lobby, along with dental dams.
Another option would be getting vaccinated. These can help protect you against infections like Hepatitis B.
Overall, even just being monogamous and limiting your sex partners can literally save your life. The more you sleep with people, the higher your risk of getting STIs. Once you’ve settled with someone in a long-term relationship, ensure that you both get tested and be honest with each other about the test results.
And the next time you’re at a party, refrain from drug usage or alcohol abuse as these substances can easily expose you to sexual assault and STIs.
Remember to play it safe and take care of yourself.