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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Check yourself before you wreck yourself

    I spent some time at the end of last year traveling around Europe. It was my first experience overseas, and it was absolutely incredible. A friend of mine did the same thing. After a couple of months, I came back with a T-shirt. My buddy came back with chlamydia. But I hear unprotected sex with a stranger can do that to you.

    On Monday, the Arizona Daily Wildcat ran an article summarizing the findings of a new Trojan/ Sperling’s Best Places study (which screams credibility). The study found UA ranked 17th among 100 major universities in sexual health, sexual assault services and the availability of condoms on campus.

    Campus Health Service officials, however, don’t want students overlooking the realities of sexually transmitted disease rates simply based on our Trojan ranking (wild, unprotected sex is, apparently, not the appropriate way to celebrate having our backs patted by a major condom producer).

    Indeed, as the article illustrated, by the time they are 25, half of all sexually active men and women will have some kind of STD. One-half! At least my buddy from Europe won’t be lonely.

    Yet only one out of 10 students reported having an STD in anonymous Campus Health polls. So are we a fluke? A bastion of healthy students who don’t face the same challenges other sexually active adults have to deal with? Or perhaps Arizona’s concentration of students with STDs lies a little farther north? (Arizona State University ranked 70th in the Trojan poll.)

    Unlikely. More probable – UA students, like a large portion of the American public, have no idea whether or not they have an STD because they are too frightened to get into Campus Health and find out whether they have been infected. It’s hard to blame them. Going to get blood drawn and urinating in a cup is intimidating.

    I went over to Campus Health for a physical a few weeks ago and decided to include an STD test in my check-up. And the truth is that I was a little embarrassed. I don’t consider myself to be exactly in a high-risk category, but the woman taking blood out of my arm didn’t know that.

    And there are few things as nerve-racking as waiting for the results. No matter what your sexual history is, something about getting tested makes you anticipate the worst. I’m absolutely convinced that an asexual, eunuch priest would still have butterflies waiting for his STD-test results. After all, crabs can spread through bedsheets.

    But it is still inexplicably satisfying to find out that everything is all right. Even though I went into the test as a formality and didn’t have any real concerns, the nerve-racking seven-day waiting period was worth it in spades when I got the call that everything was “”normal.”” And the truth is that even my buddy was also happy when the call to him was “”chlamydia”” – now he knew, and he was able to meet with his doctor and be back to perfect health in just a few days.

    Unfortunately, too many students decide to bypass tests because they are convinced that they are healthy or that they just have an ingrown hair. STDs like herpes and syphilis can take a long time to develop, and human papilloma virus often shows no symptoms. But while STDs might not always produce signs, they are still easily spread.

    So we owe it to ourselves and our sexual partners (or future sexual partners) to know exactly what our sexual health status is. Good or bad, positive or negative, nothing bad can come from an STD test. Either you find out that you’re good to go, or you find out what you can do to protect yourself and future partners.

    The clichǸ that knowledge is power may be trite, but knowledge is absolutely protection. The best way to stop the spread of STDs is to be more honest with ourselves about the statistically likely chance of catching and transmitting them. That kind of dialogue will lead to a decrease in the stigma surrounding STDs (most of which you can kill like any other infection) and an increase in the practice of safe sex.

    In Monday’s article, Lee Ann Hamilton, a health promoter who works for Campus Health, gave students some of the best sex advice – albeit the all-time most unintentionally funny thing – I’ve ever heard. She reminded students that “”if you have a penis, or are having sex with one, put a condom on it.””

    Thank you, Hamilton. And after you’ve had sex with that penis, head on down to Campus Health for a quick, cheap, easy STD screening. Because for the sake of ourselves, our sexual partners, and our community, it’s just always better to know.

    Stan Molever is a senior majoring in philosophy and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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