Student emphasizes STD testing


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Each year, there are an estimated 376 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Getting tested for STDs may save you from experiencing serious health problems in the future. Syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are currently the only ones that are curable.

By Preston Burrows, Seward County Community College

A student sits nervously on the edge of his bed, as his leg shakes and causes the black mini fridge to move. Suddenly a call comes and Stephen Ortiz’s* heart drops. He answers with an unsure, shaky hello. He was ready to receive his sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results but the feeling in his stomach gave him the idea that he wouldn’t hear good news.

“You did not test positive for HIV,” the doctor says reassuringly, lifting the weight off of the student’s chest. His breath slowly comes back to normal.

“However,” the doctor says, shattering that small moment of normalcy. “You did test positive for syphilis and herpes.”

She quickly tells Ortiz that he should get the treatment and medicine he needs for the sexually transmitted infection and the sexually transmitted disease.

The pressure returns to Ortiz as tears fill the corners of his eyes. He is thankful that he took the steps to get treated, but he wishes he would have been more open with his partner and practiced safer sexual health.

This story of Ortiz is an actual true event. While he asked Crusader not to use his real name to keep from being “labeled” on campus, he feels the topic should be discussed.

Sexual health is an important topic to discuss when anyone is sexually active, especially when they are in a college atmosphere where new relationships are formed with strangers. It’s always important that safe sex is practiced such as using protection, like condoms, talking to one’s partner about their sexual health or getting tested before moving the relationship further to sexual activities.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that a sexually transmitted disease is any of various diseases or infections that can be transmitted by direct sexual contact. The easiest way to avoid any STDs is to have protected sex, even though this method is not a 100% guarantee.

Many STDs can lead to major health problems or uncomfortable rashes/growths. Some of these diseases, like syphilis, can slowly cause any complications with a person’s health from organ damage, to dementia. There are also harmful sexually transmitted infections such as human papillomavirus, which causes types of cancer and genital warts that tend to lead to serious health problems if not caught early on and treated by a health professional.

Other STDs and STIs can result in serious health issues, so safe sex and other precautions are smart while being sexually active. If a person has any doubt about their sexual health, are concerned about changing sexual partners and maybe infecting them with an unknown STD, then this person should go to receive a test.

“I was scared to ask about my sexual health because sometimes it can be seen as ‘not good or unholy’ if a person is sexually active outside of marriage,” Ortiz said. “I finally decided to put my health first instead of how people viewed me and made a call to the hospital to ask what I needed to do about getting tested for an STD.”

Many facilities are available in Liberal to receive certain tests for sexual health. However, every place is different. The Seward County Health Department is one of the facilities that offers testing, counseling, treatment and referrals for STDs in town. This building does not have pamphlets on STDs by the front desk, so a scheduled visit or walk-in to speak to a healthcare professional would be necessary to get the information.

The path of treatment that Ortiz took was a two step process. Since the SCHD did not conduct as many tests as the hospital could, he decided to ask Southwest Medical Center what the first step to get tested for STDs. The hospital in Liberal offered the student to come to the hospital for testing but that he would have to pay an emergency bill without a doctor’s referral.

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In the past four years, cases of congenital syphilis have nearly tripled (462 cases in 2014 to 1,306 cases in 2018). Congenital syphilis can result in miscarriage, newborn death, and severe lifelong health complications.

“Instead of waiting for weeks to meet with a doctor and getting a bill in the mail, I decided to go with the second choice the hospital gave me, which was Urgent Care,” Ortiz said. “With urgent care being covered by my insurance, I knew that this was the only way for me since I am a broke college student.”

Any person wanting to receive an STD test should go to urgent care on either 445 W 15th Street by the hospital, or 2132 N Kansas Ave Street B by Billy’s Ayr Lanes. There, a person fills out basic paperwork.

Patients need to know their social security number and have their insurance card on hand or even a picture of the card. After the wait for the doctor, there are simple checks like weight and nose/ear cavity checks.

A person simply states if they have any symptoms of STDs or are just doing a check on their sexual health. After the urgent care visit, the doctor will send the person directly to the hospital to sign paperwork and get his/her labs done.

For the STD test that the hospital offers, labs consists of getting a person’s blood drawn and giving a urine sample. After the labs are completed, simply wait for the doctor from urgent care to give a call about the results.

“My recommendation is to go to urgent care and the hospital to get tested at night. There are hardly any people around if you want to keep your testing on the low and the waiting time is short,” Ortiz said.

If all tests come back negative, then no further actions have to be taken and a person can go home knowing they have good sexual health. If any tests come back positive, then the patient goes back to see the urgent care doctor and what treatments need to be done. Usually, a person will take a standard pill prescribed by the doctor and possibly shots to counteract the disease/infection.

Testing for STDs come at a cheap price to no price at all. This all depends on a person’s insurance plan and what it covers.

Overall, sexual health is important for any person. If a person is sexually active, it is best to use protection to help prevent STDs/STIs and always be aware of who a person is involved with. If a person has any reason to get tested such as unsafe sex, an unknown partner, or any symptoms of STDs, they should take the steps and get tested. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and this applies tremendously to one’s sexual health.

*Student’s name has been changed

This story was originally published on The Crusader on October 17, 2019.