By Megan Sims
Do you know your stuff about STIs? Find out now through this very quiz!
Q: Should you get tested for STIs more or less often than you get your car’s oil changed?
A: The answer, to both actually, is that it depends on how you use it! For instance, if you’re like most Harvard students who don’t have cars, you probably won’t be changing your oil very often. Similarly, if you’re not sexually active, or if you have a limited number of partners (who have been previously tested), you likely won’t need to be tested as often as someone who has a greater number of partners, or who has unprotected sex more frequently, or who drives their car a lot. Regardless, if you are sexually active, you should be getting tested about once a year even if you always practice safer sex. (And, for reference, you should be changing your oil at least every 10,000 miles).
Q: Is it harder to treat an STI or a cold?
A: More often than not, it’s easier to treat an STI than a cold! Bacterial STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be completely cured with anything from a single penicillin injection to a short course of antibiotics. While you usually have to wait out the common cold, bacterial STIs can be cured quickly and easily.
However, some STIs, such as herpes, HPV, and HIV are not at this moment curable. However, each can be treated in various ways. Herpes can be treated with anti-virals to prevent and clear up outbreaks. People at risk for HIV can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in order to lower their risk of contracting the virus. And now, most doctors recommend the HPV vaccine for all young teens, regardless of gender.
Q: Is it worse to contract an STI or to forget to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing?
A: There’s no reason that we as a society should view STIs the way we do. They’re just another form of infection like the cold, the flu, or a cough. Simply put, it’s no big deal. The moral weight we attach to STIs is entirely unfounded. Last year’s senior survey found that over 80% of the senior class had had sex by graduation. When we continue to demonize one of the possible results of such a normal act for college students and beyond, we continue to support a society that shames us both for having sex and for not having sex rather than lending credence to the choices we all make.
Frankly, not covering your mouth when you know you’re sick is far more morally questionable.
Q: Does it take longer to sign up for STI testing or to cram for that midterm you forgot about?
A: Considering it takes less than ten minutes to sign up for STI testing through UHS’s patient portal, I’d hope that’s considerably less time than your last minute cram sesh! All you have to do is log into to into https://patient.uhs.harvard.edu/, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, and click the sexually transmitted infections button. Really, it’s that simple!
If you’re reading this now, I encourage you to go sign up to get tested. It’s as easy as a few clicks of a button and will give you the ability to say to future partners “I’m STI free.” So go forth with your newfound knowledge, get tested, practice safer sex, and don’t sweat the stigma.
Megan Sims (firstname.lastname@example.org) wants to end the stigma around STIs (and doesn’t really know what a car’s oil is).