U’s Wellness Center Offers STD Testing on Campus

(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

By Christine Kannapel

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(Graphic by Mark Klekas)
(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

Probably the last thing couples want to think about on Valentine’s Day is STDs, but for the U’s Center for Student Wellness, they’re first on the list.

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The center is promoting STD testing this week, as well as throughout the year, for all sexually active individuals on campus.

The U’s STD rate is relatively low, but the center is focusing its efforts on the two most frequently diagnosed: chlamydia and gonorrhea. Both are bacterial-based infections that, if not cured, can have health consequences. Marty Liccardo, a health educator at the U’s Center for Student Wellness, is an advocate of STD testing for this reason.

“Sometimes people who have it don’t even know and spread it without knowing it because they don’t get tested,” Liccardo said.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 2.86 million cases of chlamydia each year in the United States. The infection is also typically asymptomatic, meaning that symptoms are not always visible. If chlamydia goes untreated in women, it can cause permanent scarring and infertility of the fallopian tubes in the reproductive system. The STD can be prevented by protection, such as condoms, and cured by a series of pills.

Gonorrhea, according to the CDC, is slightly less common with 820,000 cases per year in the U.S. But it causes similar damage as chlamydia and is also asymptomatic.

“Testing for STDs should become a common part of healthcare, not just something before Valentine’s Day,” Liccardo said. “But unfortunately we have an attitude about STDs that prevents students from receiving the care they need.”

The Center of Student Wellness, located in the new Student Life Center, found that most students feel ashamed of having an STD, so they don’t seek out the medical care they need. Liccardo said these infections are a serious issue because they spread, noting that students being under or misinformed is the number one cause of the spread on campus.

Lauren Kell, a junior in marketing, is glad the center actively provides STD testing.

“It’s awkward talking to a partner, but I think testing needs to become a frequent thing to keep campus on the up and up,” Kell said. “No one wants gonorrhea, and no one wants to spread it.”

If students feel embarrassed asking questions, they can submit them anonymously to the Center for Student Wellness’s website at wellness.utah.edu.

“Our hope is to spread education,” Liccardo said, “as well as to providing testing opportunities on campus.”

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