One out of four teen females has an STD

Natalie Hanassab

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed a fact about teenage girls today: One out of four have a sexually transmitted disease.Chlamydia, a bacterial infection and the most common type of STD in the United States, is also the most common among women at Pierce College.Although it can occur without symptoms, Chlamydia can cause serious problems, such as infertility, if left untreated.According to CDC, 19 million new infections occur each year and almost half of them are among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. This is besides the fact that many cases go undiagnosed.”There was a 10 percent increase this year compared to last year,” said Beth Benne, R.N., director of the Health Center. “We get about five to 10 people coming in every week.”Because of this huge number increasing every day, Pierce teamed up with Los Angeles County to provide free testing in the Health Center for all students.”We have a contract with Los Angeles County in which they provide Pierce with free testing in exchange for an anonymous questionnaire filled out by the student,” Benne said.The free testing allows students to get medically treated, despite not being able to afford it. This way, no student will be turned down simply because they don’t have the money.The treatment includes one gram of the antibiotic known as Azithromycin. Students take four tablets orally in the office.”They are 250 mg pills. It is a huge dose of medication,” Benne said.An increase in human papillomavirus, or HPV, has also added to the dramatic rise in the U.S.The Los Angeles Times announced that 18 percent of girls studied had HPV, which is one of the most common types of infections. If not treated, it can lead to other diseases like cervical cancer.There is only so much anyone can do to stop the increase of STDs. For this reason, Pierce Nurse Practitioner Debbie Sargent explains that if you are sexually active, you must get tested.”Every time you have a new sexual partner, you absolutely have to get tested,” she said. “”Also, men think that it is not important for them to take a test because their partner already went to the doctor, so they think they’re fine.”The Health Center offers students help in many different ways.Students seem to feel very comfortable discussing their problems and sharing their situations with the nurses in the office, which makes it easier for the nurses to help.”Students are very comfortable coming in to see me,” Sargent said. “I mean, nothing can shock me anymore, I’ve heard everything.”The health office even provides free condoms. All a person needs to do is fill out a quick form and will be handed a bag full of them.It is understood that condoms are the number one method for preventing STDs. According to Benne, many women today are on birth control, which is responsible because they are taking action to prevent pregnancy. Condoms, however, also protect people from STDs.Both Sargent and Benne urge that they always be used.”I applaud for the pill, but please still use condoms,” said Benne. “To me, there is no such thing as safe sex. The only safe sex is abstinence, but you can practice safer sex by using condoms.”The Health Center will usually take a student in regardless of whether or not they have made an appointment. It is better organized if the student has made one, however, because it allows the nurses to make the most time they can by looking over documents and papers that have been filled out.”If I have a little window of time, I could squish people in if they are in pain,” said Sargent.Natalie Halimi, a sophmore psychology major, was very shocked to learn about the high percentage of woman with STDs.”That is way too high of a number and we need to take better care of our health,” she said. “It is our bodies we are talking about.”Now is the time for everybody to really take a look at what is happening around them. The week of April 14 marks AIDS Awareness Week, a time to try to make a change on the future of the virus.Trailers will be set up behind the Health Center, where free oral HIV testing will be available for everyone.”Oral testing is great because you can get your results right away, compared to a normal blood test,” said Sargent. “You would be talking to the person giving the test and your results would be ready right after.””Visiting the trailers and taking the test would be great support in the fight to erase and prevent the further spread of AIDS,” said Benne. “Everyone should stand up for themselves and say they are worth it. If we take the proper steps, we’re going to go a long way.”


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