We here at Live and Study care about the wellbeing of students. University is a fun time where, perhaps for the first time, students are able to have more freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility, and students need to make sure that they are safe. It’s a topic that students tend to avoid, with an attitude of “it won’t happen to me”. However, students need to be less naïve and be informed about the facts.
With sexually transmitted infections (STIs) being prevalent among young people, students are warned to be wary of the dangers of STDs and the importance of testing.
In the UK young people aged 16-24 years are most at risk of being diagnosed with an STD. Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease and genital warts is the most common viral STD.
Chlamydia is a common STI not only among young people but especially women – in 2010 there were 127551 cases of chlamydia among females, of which 57804 were between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Since the National Chlamydia Screening Program (NCSP) was set up in 2003 by the Department of Health, chlamydia screening has become available at more testing centres, including some community centres that are not full GUM clinics. “Both men and women with an STI can be unaware that they have the infection,” advises the Jefferiss Wing sexual health clinic.
Rob Mackay of The STI Clinic says, “Chlamydia is not life-threatening but it can have long term health consequences if it is not identified and dealt with. Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and can lead to infertility by scarring the fallopian tubes. But the really scary thing about Chlamydia is that it is very often symptomless – so you will never know that you have it unless you get tested.”
London, which has well over quarter of a million full time students, had the highest rates of genital herpes diagnoses per 100,000 people in 2008. A record number of 28,957 were diagnosed in GUM clinics, and 60% of these were women, with the 16-24 age group being the most susceptible.
HIV is also a worry especially because, in 2010, half of the people diagnosed with HIV had been diagnosed later than the time when their treatment should have ideally started.
The HPA called last year for universal HIV testing at STD clinics. In 2010, more than 3,000 gay men were diagnosed with HIV – the highest ever annual number. One in 20 gay men are now infected with HIV nationally with one in 11 in London.
Rob Mackay continues, “Sexual health is often overlooked by people as they think that STIs do not affect them. Bizarrely, we hear comments like ‘she didn’t look the type to have Chlamydia’ as if you can tell this sort of thing from the way a person presents themself.
“People have a real aversion to going to speak to a doctor about anything related to sexual health as they find it embarrassing but it has never been easier to access this type of healthcare. There are online sexual health clinics and even the NHS will provide free postal testing in some areas for under 24s. Getting tested has never been easier.”
You can also find more advice online at The Online Clinic.