Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections are available at Health Services to all students. These tests can either be billed to your insurance or you can choose to not use your insurance and pay the out of pocket costs for the tests on your clipper card. HIV testing is $15, Syphilis testing is $5, and chlamydia and gonorrhea testing are $75. Other STI testing would require insurance or further discussion with your medical provider at health services.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a group of infections usually spread through sexual activity. However, they are not limited to penetrative sexual intercourse since some can be spread by touching or exposure to body fluids. The most common STIs on college campuses, including Salem State, are Chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), and genital herpes (HSV).
Anyone who is sexually active can get or transmit an STI. Some STIs, including HPV and HSV, can be spread by touching - either genital to genital, mouth to genital, mouth to mouth, or hand to genital. Others, including HIV, pelvic inflammatory disease, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea, are transmitted through contact with an infected person's body fluids. Many times, people don’t have symptoms and the only way to know for sure is to get tested if you are sexually active.
If you do experience symptoms, common symptoms of STIs could include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Sores, bumps, rashes, or blisters in the genital or anal areas
- Abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis
- Itching, pain or discharge from the anal area
- Redness or swelling in the genitals
Most STIs are diagnosed through an exam by your clinician, a culture of the secretions from your vagina or penis (urine test), or through a blood test. In order to provide you with a comprehensive screening for STIs, make an appointment at health services and a nurse practitioner will meet with you to discuss your concerns and risks.
For many of the infections, the incubation period (the time from when you are exposed to when you see symptoms or tests may show positive results) may be several days to two weeks. If you had a recent exposure that you are concerned about, we'd advise you to call or meet with a nurse practitioner, particularly if you are interested in obtaining emergency contraception (morning after pill). You may be asked to return at a later time for additional tests if your exposure is not outside the incubation period.
If you are diagnosed with an STI, it is important to receive treatment and take it as directed. Some STIs can cause long-term health issues if left untreated, especially for people with uteruses.
There is no “test” for HPV as part of routine STI screening. People with a cervix may get tested for HPV with their routine PAP smear but there is no way currently to test anyone without a cervix. HPV is a virus that often causes no symptoms but is responsible for most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women and oral, throat, penile, and rectal cancers in men. Some HPV causes genital warts as well (better than cancer but still no fun!).
This virus is preventable with the Gardasil vaccine, which is available at health services and is usually covered with no cost-sharing or co-pays with most insurance companies. If you have not received your Gardasil vaccines or have not completed your series of 3, it is highly recommended that you do so either with your primary care provider or at health services, whether you are or are not currently engaged in sexual activity. The sooner you can get your vaccines, the more protected you will be. If you aren’t sure if you want to get the vaccine, make an appointment to take with a medical provider at health services and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have and address your concerns.
You can lower your risk for all STIs in some of the following ways:
- Limit the number of partners. Form a monogamous relationship in which you and your partner make an agreement to be faithful sexually and stick to it. Avoid sexual contact (penetrative or touching without penetration) until you are reasonably sure—through testing and examination—that you and your partner are free of STIs. Be aware that there are limitations on the value of testing. Latent bacteria and viruses can be present without visual evidence or even positive testing.
- Practice safe sex. Use condoms or dental dams made of latex or polyurethane. While condoms do not provide 100% protection, they do provide the best protection now available.
- Have regular medical checkups and STI testing, especially if you have changed partners or have more than one partner. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. A large percentage of people who have an STI are unaware of any symptoms.
- Learn about PrEP. Now available by prescription at health services, PrEP is a daily medication taken to significantly reduce your risk of HIV.
- Do not use alcohol or other drugs in potentially intimate situations. Drugs inhibit your ability to make decisions.
- Learn the common symptoms of STI's (for those that have symptoms) and see a medical provider at health services if symptoms develop or if your partner suspects he or she has had contact with an STI.