According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young people 15 to 24 years old make up half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STI). What’s more, the number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are increasing at dramatic rates. The number of reported cases of chlamydia in males increased 14 percent from 2012 to 2016. In the same time period, the number of cases of gonorrhea in males increased 29.9 percent. While the number of reported cases of both gonorrhea and chlamydia in females decreased by 1.4 percent in this same timeframe, the prevalence of both infections continues to pose a danger to young adults that are sexually active. For instance, the overall rate of reported cases of chlamydia in 2016 was 3,437.5 cases per 100,000 females between 15 to 24 years old, and the overall rate of reported gonorrhea infections was 540.8 cases per 100,000.
Cases of syphilis increased even more than gonorrhea and chlamydia. In the same period, syphilis cases increased by 54.2 percent in males 15 to 24 years old and 64.5 percent in females of the same age group. The cases of syphilis per 100,000 individuals, however, are much lower than that of chlamydia and gonorrhea. Needless to say, the dramatic increase in rates of syphilis year-to-year is cause for concern. For college aged individuals (ages 20 to 24), the rates of syphilis are 6.7 cases per 100,000 females and 37.9 cases per 100,000 males. Men who are 20 to 24 years old appear to have the highest rate of syphilis among all age groups and sexes. The rate of syphilis increased among women 20-24 years old by 28.8 percent from 2015 to 2016.
However, the above statistics exclusively apply to heterosexual interactions. Data for men who have sex with men (MSM), shows a different trend in rates of STIs. 80.6 percent of recorded syphilis cases are from MSM. For MSM, the rates of syphilis are much higher than men who have sex with women (MSW); the rate of syphilis among MSM is 200 to 400 cases per 100,000 MSM compared to 37.9 cases per 100,000 MSW. Other STIs like gonorrhea are also present in different rates among MSM. The rate of gonorrhea among MSM from 2010 to 2015 has increased 151.0 percent. In 2015, the CDC estimated that the rate of gonorrhea was 3,434.7 cases per 100,000 MSM.
Though HIV can be spread in ways other than sexual contact, it is important to note the rates of new HIV cases, because transmission is highly preventable via the use of condoms or oral pre-exposure prophylaxis supplements. In 2016, 20 to 24 year old individuals made up the largest age group among new HIV diagnoses. Overall, 70 percent of these diagnoses were of gay and bisexual men and 23 percent of them were of heterosexuals. Nevertheless, the number of new diagnoses of HIV is decreasing; in the years between 2011 and 2015, new HIV diagnoses have decreased by 5 percent.
Here’s how you can protect yourself: The CDC recommends, “Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms” in order to prevent new STIs. Executive Director of Fordham University Health Services, Kathleen Malara, also stresses that students who engage in high-risk behavior, like having multiple sexual partners and/or inconsistently practicing safe sex, should get tested for STIs often. The CDC recommends testing at least once a year for all sexually active individuals. Fordham Health Services is available on campus to provide screening for every STI. Moreover, if you are diagnosed with any STI, Fordham Health Services can provide you with treatment.
The only thing Health Services cannot provide you with are condoms. According to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services that was issued in 2009, Fordham Health Services must abide to the following guideline: “The Church cannot approve contraceptive interventions that ‘either in anticipation of the marital act, or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, have the purpose, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible.’” Though Fordham Health Services can provide ample measures to treat STIs, they cannot aid in preventing them beyond endorsing abstinence. Nonetheless, students can gain access to condoms at any walk-in clinic, and they are readily available commercially.
At any rate, preventing STIs is a matter of choice. You must pick which method of prevention best fits your lifestyle. Whether abstinence or safe sex is the best plan of action for you, it is imperative to take steps to protect yourself from STIs, for the rates of STIs are generally increasing among young adults. Reducing these rates is possible as long as measures of prevention are widely practiced.