Today is Valentine’s Day…the head nurse of our Wellness Center informs me that a lot of condoms are taken from her office this time of year. I’m very glad that many students use protection. Last week I had an activity on campus called “Safe Sex Bingo”. I used a fun activity to get the word out about safe sex. Many people are unaware of all the STD’s out there and that many of them don’t have any symptoms. How can you protect yourself from STD’s? The only 100% effective way is abstinence. But for those of you who are in a relationship or choosing to have sex for other reasons, the safest way is to use a condom with lubricant every time you have sex. It is also suggested that you limit your number of partners and get tested regularly.
Again, many STD’s don’t have any symptoms. HPV is a common STD that can’t be cured. Many people don’t know they have it unless they get tested. The prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 is dramatically increasing in teens. This STD also can’t be cured. When the virus is inactive it causes no symptoms but it can still be spread. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are a couple of the most common STD’s. They can be cured with antibiotics, but yet again, most people don’t have any symptoms and spread these diseases easily to others.
Many people come into counseling because of the stress of contracting an STD. For those who have contracted STD’s that aren’t curable, it has a huge impact on their self esteem. It is very devastating to find out that it did happen to you. Many students also struggle with how to tell their partners or future partners about having an STD. It is complicated and stressful. Some students choose to be alone for awhile after contracting an STD because of the shame that they feel. I work with students on how to deal emotionally with an STD and how to communicate that they have one to the few people who may need to know. It isn’t the end of the world, but it may feel like it is at the time. Many people say they don’t get tested because of the fear of finding out the results. But it is so important that you face that fear and take care of yourself as well as the people you are in sexual relationships with.
So this Valentine’s Day, give the gift of getting tested for your sweetheart. If you are single, its also important that you get tested and put your mind at ease.