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Report: Sexually transmitted infection cases in the United States hit record high

/ The Daily Orange

In Syracuse University, 9.5 percent of people tested for chlamydia tested positive, 0.96 percent of people tested for gonorrhea tested positive and 0.34 percent of people tested for syphilis tested positive for the 2015-16 academic year, according to SU Health Services.

UPDATED: Nov. 30 at 3:25 p.m.

In 2015 the total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the United States reached the highest number on record, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Americans aged 15 to 24 — the general age of university students — make up the majority of these cases, accounting for half of gonorrhea diagnoses and almost two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses, according to the CDC website.

Syracuse University Health Services reported that for the 2015-16 academic year, 9.5 percent of people tested for chlamydia tested positive, 0.96 percent of people tested for gonorrhea tested positive and 0.34 percent of people tested for syphilis tested positive.

But Health Services administrators said a majority of students prefer to get tested for sexually transmitted infections through county hospitals, Planned Parenthood or their home doctors.

To promote safe sex awareness, Health Services has plans to launch a new program on Dec. 1 called “Safe Sex Express,” an inter-university barrier contraception delivery service. The program is being funded through a grant.

Students will be able to order external and internal condoms, lubricants, dental dams, finger cots and gloves online from Health Services to be delivered directly to their dorm, free of charge.

“We’re hoping to get that out to more students to increase awareness in STI prevention and pregnancy prevention,” said LeeAnne Lane, a registered nurse and nurse manager of SU Health Services. “In each delivery there will be safer sex education as well.”

Benjamin Domingo, director of Health Services, said testing is the key component of STI epidemic prevention and sex safety. He said testing needs to happen more consistently, and added that the best direct way to prevent the spread of STIs are barrier contraceptives, which are contraception methods that are used only during sexual intercourse, including male or female condoms.

He added that regular testing is best way to prevent the spread of STIs on a community level. Some STIs are absent of symptoms and can be very serious if left in the body for a long time.

There is often a stigma surrounding STI testing, which discourages people who may be asymptomatic from getting tested, Domingo said. Factors such as being in a monogamous relationship or being primarily concerned with birth control are other aspects that discourage young people from getting tested, he added.

“I think young people are obsessed with birth control in all forms and protecting themselves from pregnancy, when really they should be thinking about protecting themselves from contracting health risks,” he said.

Lane said Health Services encourages safe sex, as opposed to abstinence. Condoms, lubricants and dental dams are always available for free pickup inside the Health Services building, located at 111 Waverly Ave.

We are promoting safer sex. We are not going to even try to promote abstinence because it’s very unrealistic,” Lane said. “However, there are students who do follow that rule. So we are encouraging communication so that students talk openly about it and move forward when they’re ready.”

Dr. Stanley Friedell, an OB-GYN and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, said STIs have always been prevalent among the younger generation because younger people have more casual, unprotected sex.

Friedell said when you have intercourse with somebody you’re having intercourse with every person that person has been with.

To explain the recent increase in STIs, the CDC has cited two main factors, especially in the younger population, Domingo said. The first is that the funding for STI testing has been cut in half since 2008, he said.

“Another, which is no surprise, is the ‘Tinder effect,’” Domingo said. “It’s the hookup sites like Tinder, hooking up with somebody is as convenient as ordering a pizza.”

Health service professionals said SU students can stay safe from STIs by using barrier contraception and being regularly tested, even if they are asymptomatic, or not showing symptoms.

“Just get tested. It’s overkill, it’s redundant, it’s not original, but it’s really the message,” Domingo said. “Do yourself a favor and get tested.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the contraception methods used only during sexual intercourse were misstated. Contraception methods used during sexual intercourse include male or female condoms. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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