Recently, Emmons has heard some concerns from students that chlamydia is on the rise at Occidental. So we thought it would be a good idea to provide the community a little more information on chlamydia prevalence, prevention and treatment.
In the past couple of years, Emmons has not seen a dramatic rise in Chlamydia. I will mention that, according to public health records, there has been an increase in numbers of cases in Los Angeles county within recent years. However, it is usually the case that with increased numbers of people being screened, more positive cases will be uncovered. Chlamydia remains the number one most commonly diagnosed and treated sexually transmitted infection (STI) at Emmons.
By far, more students come in not having symptoms for the infection. That is why I emphasize screening, as the infection is usually asymptomatic. If I could take a guess, I’d say that only 10 percent of students have the symptoms at the time of testing.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial STI in the United States. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for this infection. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the highest risk age group for this infection are people age 14-24, and women are diagnosed more often than men. About 1.4 million American men and women become infected with Chlamydia every year .
I don’t think that chlamydia affects Occidental students more than other students as it doesn’t discriminate. . College aged students are in the highest age category (as mentioned age 14-24 is the highest age rate). The rates of infection have grown nationally over the years.Logically this would affect the college rates, as college age students are in the highest category.
Chlamydia is spread through sexual contact and can infect the penis, vagina, anus, cervix, eye or throat. Often times the infection can go unnoticed. In fact, 70–90 percent of women, and up to 90 percent of men can be asymptomatic. If the person does have symptoms, they may show up 5–10 days after infection. Symptoms in women may include: unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, painful urination, vaginal swelling, abdominal or pelvic pain and pain during sex. Symptoms in men may include: painful urination, penile discharge and swollen or tender testicles.
If left untreated, chlamydia can be dangerous to your health. The infection can ascend to the fallopian tubes and ovaries, causing pelvic inflammatory disease. This can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics. It is important to also have your partner(s) also treated, as the infection can be passed back and forth between partners. Having the infection one time does not grant you immunity to the bacteria with subsequent exposures. Retesting should be done one to two months after treatment, to make sure that the infection is gone.
The only sure way not to contract chlamydia is not to have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Correct use of latex condoms reduces but does not eliminate the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia.
Since chlamydia is often asymptomatic, it is important to get screened. It is recommended to get a screening when you change partners, preferably before you start having sex. In general, sexually active women should get screened annually up until the age of 25, or as long as they have increased risk factors. Chlamydia and other STI screenings are free of charge at Emmons Wellness Center. Many students already take advantage of this, and I encourage anyone who is thinking about it to make an appointment and get screened.
The best advice is to take precautions by limiting your exposure, getting screened and wearing those protective latex raincoats. In the moment, using condoms may be awkward or uncomfortable, however, it is better than having the even more awkward experience of calling your current/past partners to inform them that they need to be treated for chlamydia.
Getting more students to wear condoms is a challenge. Providing education and information is our strategy, but it comes down to a choice. Factors that may affect that choice are spontaneity, feelings of security/insecurity, condom availability and just being mindful. Choose sexual health first, protect yourself and wear condoms.
Cindy Bacon, NP
Emmons Wellness Center