College is an exciting (and sometimes overwhelming!) experience. You're out on your own, responsible for yourself, and meeting lots of new people. You might be excited about making friends and dating now that you're in a whole new environment.
It's a great time to get to know what you're looking for in a relationship, or simply to have fun. But it's also important to be safe and to protect yourself against STDs. If you're sexually active, you should know that of the 20 million STD diagnoses each year, about half are found in people ages 15-24.
You can't assume that your partners will be safe; you need to educate and protect yourself. While some STDs are easily cured, others can have a lasting impact on your health and fertility or even cause a lifelong infection. It's something to take seriously, which is why you should keep your doctor up-to-date on your sexual activity in college.
Why Should I Tell My Doctor if I'm Sexually Active?
It's very normal to feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about your sexual health with your doctor, especially if you haven't been having sex for very long. But you should know that doctors expect to talk about these topics and they won't be disclosing the information to anyone else. They need to get a full picture of your health in order to provide you with the best advice possible. They're not judging you!
You should definitely be completely honest with your doctor. Tell them if you're sexually active (this includes all kinds of sexual contact!) and about what kind of protection you're using. If you feel uncomfortable, think about why. Do you need to find a doctor you feel more comfortable with? Or do you just need to get used to talking about these topics?
Regardless, don't hold back when talking to your doctor. They'll be able to give you advice about STDs, keeping yourself safe, and more. They'll also be able to offer you prescriptions and vaccinations if necessary. Don't risk your health because you feel a little awkward!
Tools and Resources for College Students to Help Stop Sexually Transmitted Diseases
If you're sexually active, don't leave anything to chance. See if your school has resources for preventing pregnancy and STDs. You might be able to get condoms that way or through your local Planned Parenthood.
Staying updated on STD testing is important for your health and the health of any partners you may have. Talk to your doctor about what they recommend for testing and see what the options are near campus. You should also make sure that anyone you're intimate with is getting tested as necessary too—sometimes people aren't upfront about their testing status and possible exposure.
There's a lot of great information online as well, but be sure it's coming from a reliable source. Planned Parenthood, the CDC, and the Mayo Clinic are all good sources of information. Don't assume you know everything and always find out more from the experts when you have a question.
Don't Make Assumptions
Unfortunately, not everyone is ethical when it comes to sex. Some people have multiple partners without getting tested or even using a condom. They might not even know if they have been infected with an STD!
Don't assume that someone you're intimate with is "clean." In a perfect world, everyone would be extremely careful and think about the possibility of spreading infection. However, we can't pretend that people always will do the right thing. That's not to say you should mistrust everyone you want to date, but it does mean you need to be careful about the assumptions you make.
Educating People on Prevention and Treatment Strategies
Many STDs are less harmless now, thanks to new treatments, education, and prevention. But it's important to know just how devastating diseases like HIV and AIDS, herpes, and syphilis can be. These STDs are not as common as they once were but have the potential to make a comeback since many people who get them don't know they've been infected.
We all have a responsibility to educate each other on safe sex and STDs. Diagnosis and testing are absolutely crucial to preventing large outbreaks in the future that affect people's lives permanently.
By educating yourself and others while you're still a young adult in college, you can help create a safer, healthier culture around sex and intimacy. Be safe and have fun!