Reason for Concern

Sharing a romantic evening with the opposite sex, whether it’s with that special someone, is supposed to be a night that won’t be forgotten. Having a connection with that person sometimes leaves an impact on many people’s lives. Yet many don’t take into account the after-effects of having sex, such as sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the American Social Health Association, one in five people in the United States has an STD, but at least one in four Americans will contract an STD at some point in their lives. However, women, teen-agers, the poor and some racial and ethnic groups, especially blacks, bear the brunt of STD infections.Holly Rayko, coordinator for health education at USF, said this university doesn’t have its own statistics.

“Not everybody at USF uses Student Health Services, so there are no specific statistics to give,” Rayko said. An STD is classified as any infection acquired through sexual contact, according to ASHA., an informational Web site that offers health care information to people affiliated with many health care providers, said STDs are among the most common infections that occur in the United States today. Women and men who are sexually active underestimate their own personal risk of contracting one, and women have a higher risk of getting and STD due to the structure of their anatomy, the site said.

Freshman Josh Schechter ventured to guess one in 6,000 teen-agers gets an STD. However, according to ASHA, one in four new STD infections occur in teen-agers.

“I would like to see the study the person did to get that,” Schechter said. also said there are two major factors for the lack of awareness about STDs. One is that many of the infections are asymptomatic, or showing no physical symptoms, and the second factor is there is a strong social stigma about people with STDs which prevents open discussion of the problem.

ASHA said human papillomavirus, which includes warts of the feet, hands and genitals, is the most common STD in the United States, and more than 5 million people are infected with HPV each year. said chlamydia, an asymptomatic STD, appears to be declining in the United States because of the increased efforts to screen and provide treatment for women with the disease. said younger people who contract an STD suffer long-term health problems because of the infection. There are some STDs that can be cured with the right treatment and others that can not.

“Generally speaking, viruses can’t be cured,” Rayko said.Antibiotics can cure bacterial STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Genital herpes, a viral STD, is a life-long infection, but there have been developments to minimize the symptoms. STDs, such as HIV/AIDS, can have treatments that prolong life but are incurable.

Another Web site titled “Unspeakable: the Naked Truth about STDs,” , is an outreach program provided by Pfizer Inc., the maker of Zithromax, an antibiotic used for curing side effects from certain venereal diseases. The Web site works with Jonathan Zenilman, an associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University. Unspeakable said in both sexes, symptoms of STDs could include genital sores, pain and itching.

Unspeakable also said if someone thinks he or she may have an STD or thinks he or she has been exposed to one, see a doctor immediately.

“It’s best to ask your doctor what he or she should do about testing,” Rayko said. “It also depends on the STD one is talking about.”

Timing is important because early treatment will help minimize the long-term effects, said Unspeakable. Also, one should abstain from having sex until the person (who might have the STD) can not pass it to someone else, according to the Web site.

The cost for treating and diagnosing an STD is expensive. ASHA said that STDs, other than HIV, cost about $8 billion each year for health care providers to diagnose and treat. The estimate doesn’t include indirect, non-medical costs, such as low wages and low productivity due to STD related illness.

Freshman Allison Cornell said she thinks that a lot of people, especially teen-agers, are at high risk to contract an STD.”I think that (statistics) are accurate and probably true, because kids are so irresponsible these days,” Cornell said.

Cornell said she thinks teens are at a higher risk when they drink alcohol and then have sex because they don’t have control, and a lot of teens want to have sex to experience it.

Freshman Jamie Garrison said he agrees with Cornell and will think twice even when using the proper protection.

“I realize that it’s really not that safe (to have sex),” Garrison said. “It takes more than the proper contraception.”

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