If you are sexually active, getting tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is an important part of your overall health, but some students are not comfortable discussing their intimate partner relationships with a health care provider.
UHS offers chlamydia and gonorrhea self-screen options for students who may not feel comfortable discussing their sexual health with a provider.
Liz Falk-Hanson, a nurse practitioner in the Gynecology Clinic, says perceived barriers may keep students from making an appointment with a provider. “We know there are students who have concerns about their sexual health but talking to someone is not their preference. We want to provide an opportunity to get screened and access to UHS services in any way that is right for them.”
Falk-Hanson says there are many students who don’t utilize UHS services but who fall into the category of those who should be annually screened for STIs. “We want to normalize routine STI testing. If you’re sexually active, you should get tested every year. We’re not singling out people who are higher-risk. It’s just for everyone,” says Falk-Hanson.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all sexually active people under the age of 25 regardless of the number of partners—current or previous—get tested for chlamydia each year.
Chlamydia is most commonly spread through vaginal sex, and if left untreated, may cause pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility. For most, chlamydia has no symptoms and the symptoms that do appear—such as a burning sensation while urinating or abnormal vaginal discharge—may not appear for several weeks or may be mistaken for something else. If left untreated, it may cause pelvic inflammatory disease, epididymitis (a painful testicular infection), impact future fertility, or lead to chronic pelvic pain.
People with current chlamydia infections are also at increased risk of getting HIV if exposed.
CDC data shows that the national rate of reported cases of chlamydia has been increasing in recent years. Males have similar rates for chlamydia as females but their risk for untreated infection is lower.
Gonorrhea is a fairly common STI and any sexually active person can get gonorrhea through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Most people with gonorrhea infection have no symptoms or just mild symptoms, such as genital discharge or painful urination. Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. Men who do have symptoms may have a burning sensation when urinating or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Like chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, epididymitis (a painful testicular infection), problems with fertility, or chronic pelvic pain. Untreated infection can increase the risk for getting HIV. In men, gonorrhea can cause a painful condition in the tubes attached to the testicles.
Making a self-screen appointment is simple
- Log into MyUHS
- Choose Medical visit, then “Sexually Transmitted Infection Symptoms or Screening”
- Select a time for a lab visit and whether you want to do a urine test or a vaginal swab
- Check-in for the appointment and go to the lab desk to receive the specimen label and instructions on how to collect the specimen.
There is no need to interact with any staff except to receive the specimen label in the lab. Results are typically available in three to five business days. Falk-Hanson hopes offering a convenient testing option helps to catch positive infections early so students can be treated without the risk of long-term health effects. “The test is no-cost, easy, painless and you can do it on your own terms.”