STD findings no shock to officials
UH Health Center officials said they were not surprised by the findings of a recent study that revealed one-fourth of American teenage females have a sexually transmitted disease.
Director of the UH Health Center Floyd Robinson and Chief Nurse Laura Moore said they diagnose someone with an STD every day, some not for the first time.
"Students on this campus are having sex, and it’s unprotected," Moore said. "The results would probably be the same. If their friends are doing it, they are going to do it."
The study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 26 percent of 838 females between the ages of 14 to 19 had an STD. Proportionately, that is 3 million teenage females nationwide, the study said.
A UH science junior said she had her first and only herpes outbreak after being with her boyfriend for a year. She said she contracted the disease from her boyfriend through oral sex.
"It was one of the most painful things I have ever been through," she said. "I couldn’t walk and I developed a bacterial infection to go along with it."
Since her first outbreak, she has had to call her doctor twice because she thought she was getting an outbreak, and said her life has changed dramatically.
"I feel like I will never be able to be intimate with anyone but my boyfriend," she said. "I’m not planning to be intimate with anyone else, but what would I do if we broke up? I would be too embarrassed to have to tell someone I was interested in that I had an STD."
Her boyfriend, a science senior, said she dealt with it wonderfully, but can’t describe how guilty he feels. He said he hates that she is labeled with an STD and that people would judge her for it.
"It was terrible to watch her like that," he said. "She went through a month-long depression, and I felt like I couldn’t say anything to her. I caused, it and it was terrible."
More women come into the Health Center to be tested but that does not mean more women than men are infected with STDs, Moore said.
"Women are always smarter about changes with their body. They will come in before symptoms show or progress," Moore said. "Men think it will go away on its own."
Health Center officials said they see the same patients come in with an STD after already having been treated. Moore said she has had to treat the same people month after month until they come in with an incurable disease.
It is impossible to tell if someone has an STD by looks alone, Robinson and Moore said. Many patients are married or in monogamous relationships, and some are recently divorced.
A UH accounting junior said she found out she had genital warts after dating her boyfriend for several months. She said they decided a few months into their relationship to start having sex, and she was diagnosed at a regular checkup a few months after.
"It sucks and it’s scary," she said. "It’s like the worst feeling and I didn’t know how to tell my parents."
Her parents were shocked and confused, she said. Her mom supported her through the ordeal, but she said it has changed her relationship with her father.
"Be careful, whether it’s your boyfriend, a friend or a one-night stand," she said. "It could happen to anyone. I never thought in my wildest dreams that it could happen to me."
Robinson and Moore said the rise in STDs could be attributed to different factors, including a lack of education from schools and parents. They said while educating students about abstinence is good, it should not be the only thing students are taught.
"People have to take the blinders off," Robinson said. "Abstinence is not being practiced. People foolishly think that it is."
The UH science junior said she felt her sex education failed her. She said it should be more extensive and show teenagers what is out there and how to prevent it.
"I was always told, ‘Don’t have sex because you may get pregnant,’" she said. "I was taught a little about STDs in school but never how easy it was to get one."
Director of the Women’s Resource Center Beverly McPhail said she is appalled at how little people in a society that claims to be sexually liberated know. Society’s biases put women in a tricky place when it comes to being prepared and protected, McPhail said.
"Women don’t have the power to ask for protection," McPhail said. "If they are prepared, they look like a whore. They have to play the virgin."
The Health Center provides information and the opportunity for candid discussion, Moore said. She said friends and the Internet often provide misleading and false information. Commercials for STD medication, such as Valtrex, which treats genital herpes, are also misleading, Moore said. The Valtrex commercials show couples where one person has herpes and one doesn’t, but in a happy go-lucky sort of way, she said.
"They don’t show the lesions and the pain they can endure," Moore said. "An outbreak can be life debilitating. And you can be on medication and still get outbreaks."
Additional reporting by Hannah Eastham and Dominic Dames