Column: Campus STDs

Redness, swelling, irritation and pain aren’t symptoms exclusive to the pepper-sprayed eyes of UC Davis protesters; when located in lower regions, they can also serve as indicators of an STI. Today, let’s discuss STD history, prevention and treatment methods.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers could have been based on chlamydia and gonorrhea, two STDs that cohabitate available bodies, causing harm to reproductive systems. Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States. The curable disease’s most dangerous symptom is its ability to remain symptomless. Ancient Egyptians tattooed themselves with images of the goddess Bes, who protected people from gonorrhea, but today we have a different cure — antibiotics.

Herpes (HSV), another commonly silent STD, stems from the Greek herpein, “to creep,” which references the fact that the virus — like the language of Jersey Shore — spreads quickly across unsuspecting populations. Roman emperor Tiberius may have banned kissing in public in order to prevent what Shakespeare nicknamed “the blister plague,” but banning public displays of affection won’t stop genital herpes. Herpes can be contagious even when there aren’t visible indications of the virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get [human papillomavirus] at some point in their lives.” For prevention, the CDC recommends that all people ages 13 through 26 receive the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which reduces the risk of cervical cancers and genital warts.

Gangster Al Capone, writer Guy de Maupassant and painter Paul Gauguin had more in common than genius; they also all had syphilis.

Syphilis, when caught early, is easy to cure with antibiotics. But before the nineteenth century, common treatments like mercury were unsuccessful, at best. Mercury often caused more problems than the syphilis itself and was administered as an ointment, a bath, a pill and sometimes even as a urethral injection.

When left untreated, syphilis can become painful, neurologically devastating, disfiguring and deadly.

Crabs is one of the more common STIs; even 2,000-year-old Chilean mummies show evidence of having had pubic lice in their lifetimes. Public lice aren’t spread through shared toilet seats — but through shared genitals, clothing and bedding. The six-legged lice can even nest in armpit or eyebrow hair. Feeling itchy?

Trichomoniasis, an infection caused by parasitic protozoa, was first identified as a STI in 1836 and was soon after treated with arsenic. Now, the trich and its symptoms (frothy, colorful or odorous vaginal discharge; pain during sex or urination; or itching and irritation) can be cured with oral antibiotics.

Don’t take your smush lessons from Jersey Shore. Tricky trich is always looking for victims, and having sex in a chlorinated pool or hot tub won’t kill STI-causing agents. Cuarto hot-tub much?

In 1981, Michael S. Gottlieb, an assistant professor at UCLA, published his discovery of AIDS. Soon after, the syndrome began to be inaccurately referred to as GRID — Gay Related Immune Disease.

We now know that HIV infects peoples of all sexualities and it is not spread through casual contact, but through fluid exchange: blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. UC Davis Health Education Program offers information as well as free HIV antibody tests; the next one is on Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LGBT Resource Center.

Consistent barrier use reduces the risk of certain infections. Pick up free condoms and dental dams, as well as an informative presentation on how to use them, from the Student Health and Wellness Center. The presenters wear white lab coats and solemn expressions, while placing condoms on wooden penises — it is quite fun and you can try it out yourself. You may even receive a “condom savvy” button if your skills are impressive enough.

STD testing also helps prevent the spread of unwanted infections. Remember, the most common symptom of STDs is exhibiting no symptoms at all. In order to keep yourself and your partner(s) safe, get tested regularly. Students can visit the Health-e-Messaging website to request a test online, or schedule an appointment at the Student Health Center (530) 752-2349.

Modern STI treatments are more effective and a lot less painful than those of the past.

It’s important to keep your body safe, and you can do so by being educated, tested or treated. UC Davis strives to make sex safe, so take advantage of on-campus resources.

KATELYN RINGROSE, at knringrose@ucdavis.edu, would love to know if you wear a button as well — is she the only one who claimed this fashionable prize?

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