Photo courtesy of the CDC
According to the CDC, reported STD cases decreased dramatically during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic from March to April 2020. National CDC health experts contribute this trend to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and reduced availability in screenings. Despite the drop in reported STD cases from March to April 2020, the rise in cases of gonorrhea and syphilis during late 2020 suggests that sexually transmitted diseases will continue to reach all-time highs.
Despite the rise in reported STD cases across the country, less Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi students are taking the initiative to be screened than usual, according to the University Health Center Director Zelda Y. Chacon, MSN, FNP-BC. “In the Fall 2021 semester, we saw a decrease in the total number of students being screened for STDs compared to previous semesters. It is concerning that students may be neglecting their STD screenings due to COVID-19,” Chacon stated.
“Sexually active students should take responsibility for their health and come in for STD screenings regardless of the concerns around COVID-19,” stated Cinda Lebus, TAMU-CC adjunct professor and community health educator for the Women’s and Men’s Health Services of the Coastal Bend.
TAMU-CC partners with the Women’s and Men’s Health Services of the Coastal Bend and the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation to provide free STD testing to TAMU-CC students on a monthly basis. Not only is the testing free of charge for students, the medical treatment for uninsured students who test positive is also free.
“Testing is the number one way students can reduce STD cases on campus. Without getting regularly tested, students may be spreading STDs without even knowing they have them,” Lebus stated. It is generally recommended for those in a monogamous relationship to test for STDs once a year, while those who have multiple partners throughout the year should test every six months. Those who are at extremely high risk, such as those with multiple partners who inject drugs, should test every three months.
According to the CDC, “all [STDs] are treatable with medicine and some are curable entirely.” Bacterial STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are curable when treated with the right medication. If left untreated, bacterial STIs may lead to very serious health problems. On the other hand, viral STIs such as HPV and herpes are not curable but medical treatment helps manage symptoms and prevent outbreaks.
Although being diagnosed with an STD may be devastating, the University Health Center Director believes that students should not let the diagnosis define them. “Many students who test positive carry a self-imposed stigma and allow the diagnosis to define who they are and how successful they will be. Being diagnosed with an STD is no different than being diagnosed with any other health diagnosis. Students should try to move forward from it,” Chacon expressed.
For more information regarding STD testing and treatment for TAMU-CC students, visit: https://www.tamucc.edu/health-center/services.php