Let's Talk About Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Baby

| September 06, 2001
Nobody wants to spend a lot of time thinking about the clap and AIDS unless they have to. You don't want chlamydia to pop into your head when you're mentally undressing a hottie across the quad, and you don't want to figure HIV tests into your long-term relationships.

Too damn bad. Colorado may be home to more remote mountain ranges than major bustling cities, but we're not isolated from the rest of the world. According to the Colorado Department of Health, on average 3.5 cases of HIV were diagnosed in El Paso County each month, from September 1999 to September 2000. Thankfully, the number of young people ages 20 to 24 diagnosed in Colorado are few.

"It's really low," says Susan Janty, El Paso County's board-certified HIV and AIDS nurse and Southern Colorado AIDS Project spokesperson. "Since 1985, when AIDS cases began to be reported, there have only been seven people with AIDS cases and 22 people with HIV cases."*

Janty says that, right now, among college kids, she's more worried about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), than HIV.

"If you're exposed to one STD, you're not too far from being exposed to more. With a disease, especially on a woman, it affects the tissue area. The disease will wear down the muscosa inside the vagina, which then doesn't have a healthy barrier from other diseases that she could come in contact with. Also, if a woman gets chlamydia and, say, maybe a week later is infected with HIV, she's going to have more of a chance of transmitting that HIV. With an STD, even herpes or HPD, natural protection isn't as good as it should be."

There's good reason to be worried about coming in contact with an STD 'round these parts, too. In 1999, 10,708 cases of chlamydia, a disease that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, the No. 1 cause of infertility, were reported in Colorado. Women ages 15 to 19 made up 39 percent of those cases, while men ages 20 to 24 accounted for an equal 39percent.** That's right -- your fellow classmates.

OK, so we know it's out there. How can you tell if you're at risk for contracting something nasty? Well, for one, this will be the case if you're ignoring common sense and you're having unprotected sex. The risk goes way up if you've had many different partners, you or they have ever used needles to shoot up, or you or your partner have already been exposed to an infection such as gonorrhea.

Even if you're just having plain ol' responsible safe sex, you should still be tested, just in case. The El Paso County Health Department offers cheap, confidential tests. While not completely anonymous, you can use a fake namebr.

"If giving their real name hinders them from getting a test, we'll work with them on some sort of other code name that they can set up with us," assures Janty. "We may never know what their name is; the important part is that we have identified them as HIV positive and [are] getting them into medical care and getting access to medical care." If you're still gung-ho about anonymous tests, they are offered in both Pueblo and Denver.

Check out the resources below, and go get yourself tested before you start pimpin' your wares all over campus. Testing is now so reliable and complete that you may be able to catch a small problem before it becomes life-threatening.

*Since June of 2001, according to the Colorado Department of Health

** STD's in Colorado: Surveillance Report 1999, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


Sources

El Paso County Health Department, 301 S. Union Blvd., 578-3148. Open Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., some clinics open earlier

El Paso County STD Clinic: Mondays, 1:00-4 p.m.; Wednesdays, 6 to 8 a.m.; Fridays, 8:00 to 11 a.m.

Standard screen includes chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and medication if necessary: $10. HIV testing optional: $15, free to high-risk individuals. Hepatitis B and C testing: free to individuals who have used IV drugs. Free condoms available at the clinic window, no questions asked.

Pueblo City/County Health Department, 151 Central Main, Pueblo. 719/583-4300

Open Mon.-Fri., 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.

Site does perform anonymous testing. Appointments are given priority over walk-ins. HIV testing is $20.

Denver Health and Hospitals, 605 Bannock Street, Denver. 303/436-7221.

Open Monday (by appointment only), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tues.-Fri. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (for walk-ins).

Site does perform anonymous testing. HIV testing is free.

Southern Colorado AIDS Project, 1301 S. 8th St., Ste. 200, 578-9092. A non-profit organization offering information, medication assistance, testing, support groups and much more. www.s-cap.org

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