Heading to college leads to new and exciting experiences. You will meet a variety of new people, learn countless new things, make more of your own choices and live on your own.  In short, you have sudden, new freedom. But this newfound freedom comes with additional responsibility and serious consequences.

One new responsibility involves your health. This includes routine decisions like making the appropriate appointments and taking your medications on time without being reminded.  It also includes establishing healthy habits and avoiding health risky behavior. 

Fortunately, most college aged people don’t have to worry about the chronic diseases that become common as we age.  On the other hand, college aged people are particularly prone to injury and infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. It is important to understand what STDs are, how they are communicated and how to avoid becoming infected.

Note: You may also see the term STI often, which stands for sexually transmitted infection. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they do not necessarily mean the same thing. For more information on the difference between the two meanings, you can go here.

How Common are STDs?

STDs are more common than you may think.  According to the American Sexual Health Association, “one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.” This translates to approximately 10 million new STIs occurring in young people between the ages of 15 and 24 every year, which accounts for half of all new STIs in the US every year. Even though STIs are so much more common among younger people, only about 12% of young people get tested.

What are the Most Common STDs in College Age People?

The most common STDs in college age people are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and human papillomavirus (HPV). According to a recent CDC report, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are at an all-time high in the US, especially among adolescents. This is additionally worrisome because college age people are not as likely to get tested. 

What are the negative consequences of STD’s?

Obviously, transmitting a STD to a partner can be embarrassing and cause relationship problems.

Tragically, some sexual infections, including HPV and HSV currently cannot be cured and those who become infected deal with symptoms and increased risk of complications, such as cancer, for the rest of their lives. 

Females are at particular risk because they are more likely to be infected asymptomatically and untreated infections can progress to infect the reproductive organs leading to serious illness and long-term consequences such as infertility and ectopic pregnancies.

How are STDs spread?

STDs are spread when an infected individual has physical contact with an uninfected person.  This contact can be manual, genital or oral.  It does not require the actual exchange of bodily fluids.

STDs are not spread by contact with inanimate objects, such as toilets or sinks, etc.

What are Common Symptoms to watch for?

Common symptom of STDs include bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina. Other symptoms can include painful urination, skin rash, discharge from the penis or vagina, severe itching, painful sex, and bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period. Because symptoms of STDs are often similar or sometimes may not have any symptoms, it is important to discuss any symptoms with a doctor and get tested regularly.

Importantly, STDs are often asymptomatic, especially in females.  Therefore, a lack of symptoms does not mean you do not have an infection.

How do I avoid STDs?

The only way to confidently avoid infection is by avoiding all sexual contact with others, including oral and manual.  If you chose to engage in sexual contact, you should be comfortable talking to your partner about their risk of infection before you engage in sex with them.  This requires asking about the number, types and timing of prior sexual encounters, if they have been tested for STDs and if they have had unprotected sex since being tested. 

Unfortunately, your partner may be hesitant to discuss their prior sexual activity or may not be completely honest.  Therefore, the safest approach his to insist that you and your partner be tested before engaging in any sexual activity, including oral and manual.

Even if your partner has been recently tested, or feels confident they could not be infected, it is also your responsibility to protect yourself.  This is most effectively accomplished by using a condom during any sexual contact, including oral sex.

Finally, HPV can be prevented by receiving the vaccine which is recommended for nearly everyone before becoming sexually active.  But this does not prevent any of the other types of STDs.

How and Where Can You Get Tested?

Getting tested for STDs is an essential part of health care for all who are sexually active. Fortunately, testing is easy and inexpensive.  Most testing locations can perform screening with a simple urine test or quick swab. 

If you are sexually active, then you should get tested regularly. The CDC created a search engine online called GetTested, which allows you to find free, fast, and confidential testing near you.


At CapRock Health, our providers are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of STDs and their complications. You can come in to one of our locations, submit a form online, or give us a call anytime at 979-314-2323.