BOULDER, Colo. –
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that at least one in four teenage girls in the United States is infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
Extrapolate that to the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus, and nearly 3,000 female undergraduates could be infected.
And that’s just the women.
“I think it’s a bit shocking,” CU freshman Beverly Sotelo said Monday. “But once again, regardless of all the information that we have and everything available to us, people are still getting diseases.
“It’s just sad.”
Keeping those figures in mind — and the fact that April is STD Awareness Month — many local health professionals are urging CU students to get tested for HIV and other diseases.
“With statistics as shocking as these, we must be truthful with our youth,” said Monica McCafferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “Because information that is wrong, too little or too late can result in life-threatening consequences.”
CU offers free HIV testing for students in University Memorial Center Room 411 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday when classes are in session.
Testing is confidential, and takes about 20 minutes — with results provided at the end of the session.
“Getting tested can contribute to better sexual experiences if people are comfortable and willing to talk to their partners about their status,” said Melissa Rizzuto, professional coordinator for the Community Health Program at CU. “It can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections if people know their status.”
Rizzuto said students should know that having no symptoms is actually the most common symptom of what she called “sexually transmitted infections,” or STIs.
“An STI can be contracted from being with just one partner,” said Rizzuto.
According to a February report from the Colorado Department of Public Health, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea have been on the rise in this state since 2003.
McCafferty said Planned Parenthood’s goal is to inform Colorado’s youth about STDs throughout April, as well as help normalize and encourage testing for such diseases.
“To us, the (Centers for Disease Control’s) numbers are more than just statistics,” McCafferty said. “They are the reality of what we see every day.”
Both Rizzuto and McCafferty recommend students get tested every time they become sexually active with a new partner.
CU sophomore Mariel Mijares agreed that’s a good policy.
“I think that checking yourself and being aware, regardless of whether you think you have something or not, or if you are sexually active or not, it’s always good to know,” Mijares said.