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STDs on the rise

by Bernadette Bass, staff writer



The Hawai‘i Health Department reported in October 2002, that STDs and STIs have increased in the past three years after 20 years of steady decline. According to the report, the top three STDs increasing in Hawai‘i are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

Chlamydia is the most common and widespread of the three. It can affect the cervix, urethra, throat, rectum, and the upper reproductive organs. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility, sterility, and can spread to the cervix, bladder or urethra, the fallopian tubes, and many more complications. About 64 percent of chlamydia-infected patients are 24 years old or younger.

Gonorrhea causes a rash or sores in the infected area. If left untreated, it may also cause heart or mental disorders, blindness, problems involving the nervous system, and death. Half the cases reported are people 15-to-20- year olds.

Syphilis also affects men or women, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is increasingly prevalent with men who sleep with other men. It had a 90 percent increase from 2001 to 2002. Like other STDs, syphilis is common among sexually active people 15 to 30 years old.

Two HPU students (their names have been withheld) had similar experiences after having a routine medical examination. Both were shocked to find out they had STDs. Because they had no symptoms that might have indicated something wrong, neither had gotten regular checkups after becoming sexually active.

The first student reported that her OB/GYN had diagnosed her with chlamydia and human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cell abnormalities on the cervix, increases risk for cervical cancer, and may cause genital warts. “What was scary was that I want to have kids later,” she explained, “but these conditions could affect fertility. Because the doctor caught it early, I have a chance to have kids. I just have to be more careful and get regular checkups,” she said.

The second student was in a committed relationship, and she and her boyfriend were both healthy, so, she said, she didn’t think she needed to go to an OB/GYN. “When I went to get a pap smear, I found out I had chlamydia, which indicated that my boyfriend had cheated on me,” she said. “I later found out that he was a ‘high-risk partner,’” because he had multiple partners, which increases the risk of infection, she added.

These two students were lucky. HPU faculty and administrators recommend that all students get regular medical examinations. Also use condoms to reduce the risk of getting infected, or become abstinent.


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