Are you sex-savvy enough to protect yourself?

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

“How do I tell if I’m getting chlamydia?”

In the messy world of college sex, the health risks are many. Seemingly around every corner lurk the twin monsters of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancies. Unless you know how to protect yourself, that is.

“When is a woman most likely to get pregnant in relation to her period?”

The problem is that lots of false information swims around the sex world. People rely on information they may have heard from a friend in high school or from an unsubstantiated survey.

“How does sex affect my general health?”

However, a nurse practitioner for SDSU believes that SDSU students essentially know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even though their knowledge of STDs leaves a bit to be desired.

“How effective is the pill?”

In the end, SDSU students may have the knowledge they need, but they’re not following that knowledge, for whatever reason.

“What is the most common STD?”

Whether you’re having sex or not, whether you’re married or single, whether you’re promiscuous or abstinent, some of this information will affect you some day.

So pay attention, class.

The sex quiz

Students eating at the union were on the lookout for reporters after we ambushed them last week with questions about the sex lives of them and their friends.

We, however, had a different assignment this week. We’re going to find out what students do and don’t know about sex and their health. What they knew may surprise you.

“This was on ‘Sex and the City.’ I know this!” said sophomore economics and political science major Emily Hauge, seconds before producing the right answer to the question “How do you tell if you’ve contracted chlamydia?”

Hauge was the only student to get all five questions in our quiz right (take our quiz along with these students to see how you fare). While all other students got at least one right, the answers to some of the other questions could be amusing.”It hurts when you piss. I just read that in my wellness book today,” said freshman mechanical engineering major Ryan Fier in response to the same question that gave Hauge such trouble.

“Don’t you get a weird discharge?” asked freshman CST major Maggie Dunham.

Fier and Dunham are mostly right. Women and men may notice an odd discharge or burning when urinating if they have chlamydia. Women may notice bleeding outside of their normal menstrual period. However, both sexes may notice no symptoms at all, but still have the disease.

In response to the question “When is a woman most likely to get pregnant?” most people were close.

“I’d say in the middle between when they first get done (with their period) and when it starts again,” said sophomore construction management major Quentin Knaak.

Knaak is sort of right. A woman ovulates 14 days after the start of her menstrual period. For those who are regular, it works like clockwork. Those who are not regular can still figure it out by counting off 14 days from the start of their menstrual period.

“How does sex affect your general health?” prompted several interesting responses.

“It’s damn good for ya’!” Dunham said.

“You feel more energetic and active,” said freshman interior design major Ashley McIntosh.

“If it’s emotionally healthy, you’ll be physically healthy,” Hauge said, citing the release of endorphins, which can make people feel energetic and loved.

In reality, unless you contract an STD or get pregnant, sex has no real affect on general health. With proper protection, it can’t help you that much or hurt you that much.

When answering the question, “How effective is the birth control pill?” most female students knew what they were talking about.

“If it’s used correctly, it is effective 99 percent of the time,” Devon Smith, freshman French major, said.

“Well, I hope it would be over 50 (percent) if I’m paying 30 bucks a month for it,” Dunham said.

In reality, the birth control pill is effective about 99 percent of the time, give or take a few tenths of a percentage point.

Finally, students were asked what the most common STD is, both nationally and at SDSU. Students named several diseases, but eventually settled on chlamydia, which is still the most prevalent STD at a national level.

According to Carla Dieter, a nurse practitioner at student health, the clinic sees more cases of genital herpes, genital warts and chlamydia at SDSU than other STDs.

All in all, the students we asked did fairly well. No one got all questions wrong and one student (Hauge) got all of them right.

But what do the people at student health observe about SDSU students and their knowledge of sex?

The Nurse Practitioner

Carla Dieter has been a nurse practitioner at SDSU for the last six years. In her observation, students are ready to prevent pregnancy, but not as ready to prevent STDs.

“I’m primarily seeing females, as far as their yearly wellness exams, and women are using birth control pills and other methods … for birth control. … But not all of them are using condoms in addition to that,” Dieter said.

Dieter believes that the lack of condoms in so many sexual encounters has led to the contraction of several STDs on the SDSU campus. She warns that these diseases can have dire consequences.

Genital herpes is not curable and it will leave blisters and open sores in the genital area during an outbreak. In women, it can lead to an increased chance of cervical cancer. In addition, women can pass it on to their children during birth and the disease can cause severe central nervous system damage to the baby.

Mostly, however, people have to live with the stigma of a disease that society still does not entirely understand. In addition, it can be hard to tell future partners and spouses about the disease.

“The sores will heal and it will lay dormant, but you will always have (herpes),” Dieter said.

Genital warts are similar, though they produce growths on the genitals. They can increase the chance for cervical cancer in women. They may also hinder the birthing process by shutting off the vaginal opening, thereby preventing a vaginal birth.

Finally, chlamydia, though treatable with antibiotic at any time, can lead to infection of the uterus and ovaries and increase the chance of sterility.

“The earlier that we catch it, obviously, the better because there is less possible damage to any reproductive organs,” Dieter said.

Dieter believes that most SDSU students are adequately prepared to prevent unwanted pregnancies, since most of them use birth control or practice abstinence.

Dieter says those who are pregnant have a good knowledge of what it takes to care for an unborn child.

Ultimately, Dieter says students need to be more concerned about STDs.

“I am still seeing a number of both male and females that are not concerned about using condoms for protection against STDs. They’re more concerned about being on the birth control pill,” Dieter says.