Guest Opinion: The Doctor Is In: Let’s talk about sex(ually transmitted infections)

Infections such as herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are preventable and treatable.

A+student+takes+a+condom+from+a+basket+provided+by+a+Resident+Assistant+in+Slater+Hall+on+Tuesday%2C+Aug.+29%2C+2017.++Some+Resident+Assistants+provide+condoms+for+students+in+the+dorms.+%28Hayley+Anderson%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Guest Opinion: The Doctor Is In: Let’s talk about sex(ually transmitted infections)

A student takes a condom from a basket provided by a Resident Assistant in Slater Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.  Some Resident Assistants provide condoms for students in the dorms. (Hayley Anderson/The Daily Iowan)

A student takes a condom from a basket provided by a Resident Assistant in Slater Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Some Resident Assistants provide condoms for students in the dorms. (Hayley Anderson/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Hayle

A student takes a condom from a basket provided by a Resident Assistant in Slater Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Some Resident Assistants provide condoms for students in the dorms. (Hayley Anderson/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Hayle

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Hayle

A student takes a condom from a basket provided by a Resident Assistant in Slater Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Some Resident Assistants provide condoms for students in the dorms. (Hayley Anderson/The Daily Iowan)

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Updated:

While you might think sexually transmitted infections are a topic too taboo for regular conversation, the increasing rates of STIs in Iowa emphasize the need to not only talk about STIs, but to actually get tested and treated for them as well.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are increasing from previous years and are not showing signs of slowing down. The reason this matters is that the more prevalent a disease is in an area, the higher the likelihood that you may encounter it. It is also important to remember that while chlamydia and gonorrhea are among the most common STIs, there are several other STIs to be aware of such as herpes, syphilis, and HIV.

So you’re probably thinking, “OK, I get it. The number of cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia in Iowa are increasing, but why should I really care about sexually transmitted infections?” STIs are easily spread from person to person via oral, anal, or vaginal sex, and many people will not have any signs or symptoms of an infection.

However, even if a person is not experiencing symptoms from an STI, they are still able to spread the infection to other people. Some common symptoms of STIs are abnormal vaginal discharge, pain or burning with urination, genital sores, and itching in the genital area. These symptoms clearly may be uncomfortable, but it is even more important to treat them to prevent long-term complications of these infections. It is also important to note that many symptoms can be associated with other infections that are not sexually transmitted, so getting tested can help your health-care provider find the best treatment for you.

You have the opportunity to advocate for your own health and empower your friends to do the same.”

The good news is that testing for STIs is incredibly easy and can be performed in your health-care provider’s office, the University of Iowa Student Health Center, and many other clinics across town. What’s even more good news is that bacterial infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are quickly and easily treated with antibiotics.

This brings us to one very important and final point — while there are several different testing and treatment options for sexually transmitted infections, if you are sexually active, one of the best ways to protect yourself from an STI is to use proper protection such as condoms. Birth-control pills, IUDs, Nexplanon, etc. do not protect you from STIs. It is always a great time to talk to a health-care provider about getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, and you can also do your partner and friends a favor by talking to them about also getting tested as well.

You can also discuss with your health-care provider about other preventative measures such as the HPV vaccine and other ways to help protect yourself. You have the opportunity to advocate for your own health and empower your friends to do the same.

There are many places in Iowa City where you can get tested, including your primary care physician’s office, the UI Student Health Center, Planned Parenthood, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic. You can find more information about availability and cost on their respective websites.

Hannah Pope, M3 Carver College of Medicine

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