We’re dirty

Doesn’t anyone wear condoms anymore?

EWWW <br>This is what the herpes virus looks like under a scope.

This is what the herpes virus looks like under a scope.

Photo Illustration by Tina Flynn

STD or STI?:
People are increasingly using the term “sexually transmitted infection” to replace “sexually transmitted disease.” Why? Well, it’s politically correct. Apparently people can be infected without showing signs of disease. Don’t let the differentiation fool you—someone with an STI can infect you just as if he or she had an STD.

With half the students at Chico State carrying herpes and more than three-quarters of new STDs—particularly chlamydia—in Butte County occurring in people under the age of 25, the odds should scare even the most courageous of Casanovas into carrying a condom.

In 2006, 724 new cases of chlamydia, the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the United States, were reported in Butte County. That’s a 75 percent increase since 2002, according to California STD Surveillance.

The same statistics from 2006 ranked Butte County 17th out of California’s 58 counties for new cases of chlamydia. Fresno County was reported to have the highest rate of new chlamydia infections, with 582 cases for every 10,000 people (Butte’s rate is 333.7 per 10,000).

The number of reported cases, however, is likely only a fraction of the new infections because the majority of people infected have no symptoms, according to the Butte County Public Health Department. Most sexually active women undergo annual exams, so more cases are diagnosed in women each year than men. Chlamydia is particularly dangerous because if untreated it can irreversibly damage a woman’s reproductive organs and cause sterility in both men and women. When diagnosed, chlamydia can be easily treated with a round of antibiotics.

The number of chlamydia cases treated by Chico State’s Student Health Center paint a cleaner picture of the campus. The rates at Chico State have remained fairly constant, said Dr. Jeff Thomas, chief of Clinical Medicine. Between 2001 and 2006 there was a frequency of between 2.5 and 3.5 percent of tests coming back positive for chlamydia. That means out of approximately 3,000 tests done each year about 100 came back positive.

As with chlamydia, gonorrhea instances have remained fairly constant as well, Thomas said. The frequency of positive gonorrhea tests at Chico State is one-tenth of a percent.

While students may not be overly worried about chlamydia and gonorrhea because they are treatable, only the most daring of daredevils would want to test their fate with herpes. The STD shows up as nasty sores on the mouth and/or nether region. It’s treatable but cannot be cured. The rates at Chico State are pretty shocking, with more than half of the herpes tests—52 percent—coming back positive.

“We’re getting a snapshot of what’s out there,” Thomas said.

The rate of cases diagnosed by the Student Health Center could be slightly higher than the rate in the student population, however, because many students get tested only when they are experiencing symptoms. Most women are tested, regardless of symptoms, when they get their annual pelvic exam.

Another troubling STD goes by the name human papillomavirus, or HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that half of all sexually active adults in the United States will contract HPV at some point in their lifetimes. At Chico State, 1,100 students tested positive for the virus during the 2006-07 academic year. For those who’ve managed to avoid this particular STD, the Health Center offers a vaccine, for $130.

Nationally, the highest rate of new STD infection is in young people ages 15 to 24. With only a quarter of the sexually active population falling in that age range, the group still accounts for more than half of all new STDs. In Butte County, people under 24 accounted for more than three-quarters of new STD cases.

With all these STDs flying around, the only way for those who are sexually active to stay safe is to use a condom every time. Or, take a tip from Chico State senior Bridget Hand, who says she won’t sleep with a guy unless he’s been tested.