Sexual Health and the College Student
Welcome to the November 2010 issue of the Health Matters Newsletter. The Health Matters Newsletter is published on a monthly basis on the Health Center home page, and is linked to the weekly Campus Report. The purpose of the newsletter is to share information, regarding pertinent medical issues and health and wellness suggestions with the students, faculty and staff here at SUNY Fredonia. This month's topics include:
By: Megghan Connolly
Sexual Health is one of the most important issues as well as one of the most overlooked among college students today. As much as we college students may not want to talk about it, especially with our doctors, many students are engaging in sexual activity. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the proper precautions are being put to use. The best way to get people to consider these precautions is to inform them of the risks associated with unsafe sex.
Studies show “Somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of college students are or have been infected with an STD”. STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) can be passed on through many different types of sexual contact. The good news is that there are a lot of very effective methods in preventing these types of infections or diseases. Although many STD’s are curable with antibiotics, some of the more scary ones such as HPV and Herpes are not. The biggest problem is however, not knowing that you may have an STD. Many STD’s do not show symptoms right away; some may even clear up on their own without the infected person ever knowing that they contracted it and potentially passed it on to someone else. This is why it is absolutely essential to get tested regularly for STD’s.
Some college students at times seem more than willing to “hit the sack” with someone they barely know or may have even just met. Many times this type of behavior is associated with alcohol consumption; something we all know is common among students. Practicing safe sex in this type of situation is even more important. A regretful choice on one night can affect every aspect of your future health including fertility, cancer risk, or passing something to a spouse or significant other. HPV in particular; the STD that can cause infertility or cervical cancer in women, is very dangerous. HPV cannot be tested for in men at the current time, so a man may never know that he is a carrier of the virus until it is passed on to a woman. Knowing this information, there are a few basic tips to give to college students to protect their sexual health:
- Always use condoms, ALWAYS. No excuses. – This includes oral sex as most STD’s can also be transmitted through the mouth as well. Many STD’s can be prevented with the correct use of a condom. Carrying one with you at all times means you will never be in a situation where one isn’t available. Make sure you know how to correctly put one on; this includes women in case the man does it wrong!
- Limit the amount of sexual partners— The lower the number of people you engage in sexual contact with, the lower the risk of contracting an STD
- Both partners should be tested—before sexual contact occurs, make sure both involved have been tested. We all realize this isn’t the sexiest thing to have to discuss with a new partner, but it’s the only way to protect both of you completely
- Read up on common signs & symptoms—Take some time to surf the Internet to educate yourself on some symptoms of common STD’s. Many can be cured without lasting problems if caught early on.
There are resources all around to help keep yourself informed and protected. On campus, LoGrasso Health Center can help you sort through the symptoms and direct you to the right place for follow up. BCIC offers STD testing for women as well as low priced birth control and condoms. The Chautauqua County Health Center offers free and confidential STD testing to anyone as well as free condoms, no appointment necessary. The Dunkirk clinic is located at 1136 Central Ave. Their phone number for information is: (716) 363-0018.
The term sexually transmitted disease is used to cover the more than 25 - 30 infectious organisms that are spread from one person to another by sexual contact. Sexual contact includes vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral-genital contact, and skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. Some STDs can also be spread through blood, particularly among intravenous (IV) drug users who may be sharing drug equipment such as needles or syringes.
Examples of STDs are:
- human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts
- hepatitis B or C
Key facts about STDs
- STDs affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels. They are most common in people younger than 25 years of age.
- The number of people affected by STDs is rising. Sexually active people today are more likely to have multiple sex partners during their lifetime, putting them at higher risk for STDs.
- STDs may not cause symptoms. A person who is infected may not know it and may give the infection to a sex partner.
- STDs can cause future issues for women such as infertility and cervical cancer.
How does an STD occur?
Bacteria, viruses and parasites cause Sexually Transmitted Diseases. They are usually passed between partners during sexual intercourse and other sexual contact. You can have an STD without knowing it. This means that you could infect your partner before you know you have an STD.
What are some Common Symptoms of STDs ?
- Burning or pain with urination
- Itching , burning or pain in the genital area
- Rash, bumps, blisters, or sores in the genital area that may or may not be painful.
- Sore throat
- Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods.
Where do I go for STD screening and treatment?
Many local and county health departments have clinics where you can get tested and treated for an STD. Some clinics are free, at others, you may have to pay to get STD testing and treatment.
Your doctor or health care provider may also do STD testing and treatment. You should see your doctor or health care provider right away if you have symptoms of an STD or suspect that you might have contracted an STD from an individual that you have been sexually active with. If you do not have a doctor or health care provider, and need to get tested right away, go to a local urgent care center, walk in clinic or hospital emergency room.
How do I prevent from getting an STD?
In terms of sex and sexual diseases, the only absolutely risk-free activity is to be abstinent and not have sex. This includes not engaging in vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral-genital contact, and skin-to-skin contact in the genital area . If you decide to become sexually active, here are some steps that you should take to reduce your risk of becoming infected with an STD:
- Think things through and talk with your sexual partner.
- Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner. Your chance of getting an STD is greater if you have more then one sexual partner.
- Practice safe sex. Always use latex or polyurethane condoms during any sexual contact. Using condoms reduces the risk of infection for some STDs but does not provide full protection against genital warts, syphilis and HIV.
Other information About STDs
- Your chance of getting an STD is greater if you have more then one sexual partner.
- Douching the vagina or showering after sex does not prevent STDs.
- Withdrawal (when a man pulls his penis out before he ejaculates) is not a way to prevent STDs or pregnancy.
- You can get the same STD again, even if you have had it once and have been treated.
- You can get an STD even if you have sex just one time.
- It is dangerous to mix alcohol and drugs with sexual activity, because they might lead you to take risks ( you might forget or not care about using a condom).
- If you think you might have an STD, it is important to get treated as soon as possible.
Are there any websites that will give me information on a particular STD?
National STD Hotline: (800) 227-8922
National AIDS Hotline: (800) 342-AIDS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention STD Hotline (800)227-8922
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections affecting both male and females in the the United States. Some strains of HPV are responsible for warts on the hands and feet, and other strains are responsible for warts on the penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, anus, rectum, urethra, cervix and mouth. HPV is spread through skin - to - skin contact during sexual activity.
Research has shown that 99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV infection. There are 120 different types of HPV of which 35 are linked to infection of the genital tract. Genital HPV types are divided into low-risk and high-risk types based on their potential to cause cervical and other genital tract cancers.
It is estimated that 20 million people in the United States are currently infected with HPV and over 6 million new HPV infections are diagnosed each year. Based on these national estimates, over 50% of sexually active men and women will acquire HPV infection at some point in their lives.
Most genital HPV infections are transient, asymptomatic, and clinically unrecognizable. The majority of infections will clear without medical intervention within two years of infection . Recurrence or reinfection with the same or a different subtype of HPV can occur, consequently sex partners of infected patients should be evaluated for the HPV infection.
How is HPV transmitted?
HPV is a contagious sexually transmitted virus and can be transmitted through sexual activity that does not necessarily involve intercourse, but only skin - to - skin and mucous membrane contact. HPV is difficult to identify and avoid in people who are sexually active because it is often not possible to see lesions.
How do I know if I have HPV?
Because HPV may not show any signs or symptoms, you probably won't know you have it. Most women are diagnosed with HPV as a result of abnormal Pap tests. A Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) is part of a gynecological exam and helps detect abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix before they have a chance to become precancers or cervical cancer.
Many cervical precancers (changes that could lead to cancer) are related to HPV and can be treated successfully if detected early. That's why early detection is so important.
What happens if I get HPV?
In most people , the body's defenses are enough to clear HPV. If not cleared by the body, some HPV types cause genital warts. Other types cause abnormal changes in the cells lining the cervix that can lead to precancers and even turn into cervical cancer later in life. If the abnormalities are mild, the health care professional may choose to closely monitor them. If the abnormalities are more severe, removing these cells can almost always prevent cervical cancer from developing in the future.
Methods commonly used to treat abnormal cervical cells include freezing, removing them using an electrical instrument, and conventional surgery. The treatment may have to be repeated if the abnormal cells reappear.
How can HPV infection be prevented?
There are two ways in which HPV can be prevented.
1) Abstinence -- HPV can be spread during sexual activity with skin to skin contact other than vaginal, rectal, or intercourse.
2) Monogamy -- People who have never had sexual activity with anyone else.
What about the HPV vaccine?
The FDA has approved a vaccine that will prevent 7 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer and 9 out of 10 cases of genital warts. In addition, this vaccine also will significantly reduce the number of false positive Pap tests, and thus reduce the number of costly and potentially unnecessary diagnostic procedures performed on women.
Who should receive the HPV vaccine?
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that females between the ages of 11 and 26 receive the HPV vaccination, whether they are sexually active or not. The best time to receive the vaccine is before becoming sexually active. But the CDC recommends that women under the age of 26, who are already sexually active still get the vaccine because they will still benefit from some protection.
How is the vaccine given?
Merck, one of the manufactures of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, recommends three doses of the vaccine over a six month time period; an initial dose followed by doses at 2 months and then again at 6 months.
Where can someone get the vaccine?
Discuss this with your health care provider to see if they have the HPV vaccine. If you are uninsured, or unable to afford the costs of the vaccine, contact your local health department or a community health center in your area to see if they are offering the vaccine at a low or no cost.
Are there any side effects of the vaccine?
The vaccine is very safe and has been tested on thousands of women from all over the world. Through these clinical trails, there have not been any serious adverse side effects shown. Participants in the studies complained of minor skin irritation and pain at the site of infection. There were found to be occasional headaches for a few days after injection. These symptoms are self limiting and subside on their own without additional treatment.
Do Women need to continue to get Pap tests after the vaccination?
Yes. Gardasil only protects against the two types of HPV that cause 7 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer. Additionally, it is currently unknown how long the vaccine will protect against HPV, so it is important to see your health care professional for continue Pap screening.
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than when they are 21 years old. Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every two years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.
- Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every two to three years with either the regular or newer liquid based Pap test. Women who have certain risk factors such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic steroid use should continue to be screened annually.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Any or all of these parts of the urinary tract can become infected. An infection that is not treated can permanently hurt the bladder and kidneys. It can even spread to the blood and cause a life threatening infection.
How does a UTI occur?
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria. Normally the urinary tract does not have any bacteria in it. Bacteria that cause a UTI often spread from the rectum or vagina to the urethra and then to the bladder or kidneys. Urinary tract infections are more common in women because the urethra is short. This makes it easy for bacteria to move up to the bladder and kidneys. Sometimes bacteria spread from another part of the body through the bloodstream to the urinary tract.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
The symptoms of a UTI may include:
- urinating more often
- feeling an urgent need to urinate
- pain or discomfort (burning) when you urinate
- strong-smelling urine
- pain in the lower pelvis, stomach, lower back, or side
- urine that looks cloudy or reddish
- shaking chills
- nausea and vomiting
- leaking of urine (incontinence)
- change in amount of urine, either more or less
- pain during sex
How is a UTI diagnosed?
A sample of urine can be tested for bacteria at the Health Center or in your Primary Care Phyisican's Office.
How is a UTI treated?
Urinary Tract Infections are treated with antibiotics. Those treated for a UTI should take all the medicine your health care provider prescribes, even after the symptoms go away. Those who stop taking the medication before the scheduled end of treatment could get the infection back. If the infection is not treated, your kidneys may be damaged or the infection may spread to your blood. If the infection spreads to the blood, it can cause a severe infection which could be fatal.
How can I take care of myself when I have a UTI?
- Follow your health care providers treatment.
- Drink more fluids, especially water, to help flush the bacteria from your system.
- If you have a fever, make sure that you get enough rest and take Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help reduce the fever.
How can I prevent a UTI?
You can help prevent a urinary tract infection if you:
- Drink plenty of water and other beverages.
- Do not wait to go to the bathroom when you feel the need to urinate.
- Use good hygiene when you use the toilet. For example, wipe from front to back to keep rectal bacteria from getting into the vagina and urethra.
- Avoid using irritating cosmetics or chemicals in the genital area (such as strong soaps, Femmine hygiene sprays or douches, or scented napkins or panty liners)
- Urinate soon after sex.
- Keep your genital area clean.
- Empty your bladder completely when you urinate.
- Wear all cotton or cotton-crotch underwear and pantyhose.
- Change underwear and pantyhose every day.
By: DJ Schier
In such a health conscious time as the one we live in, it is surprising to see how many college students do destructive things to their bodies. One of these destructive habits that are a health risk not only to the one partaking in it, but also everyone around them, is smoking cigarettes.
So what makes smoking such a destructive habit? Good question. Extensive research has been done over the years regarding smoking and health related issues. Smoking is directly related to certain types of cancers. Some of these include lung, pancreas, kidney, cervical, and stomach cancer among many more. Smoking is also directly related to shortened lifespans in both men and women. Men can lose up to 13.2 years off their life, while women can lose up to 14.5 years, according to www.quitsmoking.about.com.
Just because you are not the one smoking, however, does not mean that you are not being affected by smokers. Second hand smoke is smoke that is emitted from a cigarette while it is being smoked. So if you are in close proximity of someone who is smoking, like in a car with them or just standing by them, you are at risk. Second hand smoke is just as dangerous, if not more so, as smoking. This can lead to disease in people who would think that they were typically safe from the effects of smoking.
There is a push on November 18thto help people quit smoking. The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout holds this campaign every third Thursday of November in an attempt to get people to realize what smoking is doing to them and people around them and encourages them to quit. According to www.tobaccofreeu.org, the day was created to highlight the dangers of smoking and challenge people to stop using tobacco products. It is a nationwide campaign all across America.
Quitting smoking has immediate health benefits, as well as long term benefits. It significantly reduces the risk of diseases caused by smoking and overall, improves health. Also, with the taxes on tobacco products has made for a high cost. Most college students scrape by to even get tobacco products, so if someone can’t see it benefiting their health, say that it is also benefiting their wallets.
SUNY Fredonia is only one of many college institutions that will be participating in National Smokeout Day. For more information, you can check out www.tobaccofreeu.org to get more information on the day, as well as the American Cancer Society’s website www.cancer.org.