Vital Signs: Get screened for STIs

By Anna Kellaher
Columnist

While sex education is required in New Jersey high schools, students may find that one marking period of their gym teacher showing movies about teen pregnancy did not provide enough information.

Each year, 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the U.S. These infections are disproportionately common in young people –– 15 to 24-year-olds account for 50 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many STIs are asymptomatic, meaning that most people infected with an STI do not show any visible signs. Even though the disease may not be noticeable, it is still contagious and can have severe long-term consequences — including infertility — if left untreated, according to the CDC.

Young people have a higher risk of getting STIs. (Flickr)

One of the main reasons why young people are at a higher risk of getting STIs is insufficient screening. The CDC recommends annual screenings for all sexually active women under the age of 25 for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The recommendations for sexually active young men are less structured — the frequency of testing is mostly based off of sexual history and the doctor’s opinion.

Screenings for less common STIs, such as HIV, herpes and syphilis, may be recommended by a family physician based off of a person’s sexual history, according to the CDC.

Frequent screenings allow for early action, which minimizes the long-term effects of infection and the spreading of disease. Student Health Services provides free screenings for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, as well as low cost screenings for syphilis and trichomoniasis. If a test is positive, the health care providers at SHS can connect students with the necessary resources.