Jill Grimes, MD, is a board-certified family practice physician in Austin, TX. She is an associate editor for the 5-Minute Clinical Consult textbook, and clinical instructor at UMASS Medical School. Her book, Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs, proves how serious STDs are for all of us – yes, even you! We had a chance to speak with Jill and she had this to share with everyone at CollegeCandy:
Okay, ladies, it’s time for a sneak peak behind closed exam-room doors. Outside, we are bombarded with the constant message that sex is all about fun, excitement, and personal empowerment – our bodies, our choice. Inside, however, we see a disconnect between these choices and unexpected consequences. People like “us”- whether that’s preppy Greeks, computer geeks, scholarship athletes, nurturing elementary ed majors, intense pre-law or pre-med majors, or any other student – these aren’t the kind of people who would be at risk of carrying a sexually transmitted disease, right?
As a private practice family physician located near a major university, I’m here to give you the REAL scoop about the STDs we diagnose every day, in women just like you.
The majority of my patients have had fewer sexual partners than they can count on one hand, and yet my colleagues and I diagnose genital herpes, chlamydia, and HPV (either obvious genital warts or abnormal Pap smears) like crazy! To be honest, one of the most common things we hear when we diagnose someone with genital herpes is “but there’s NO WAY I can have herpes, because I haven’t even had sex yet!” Of course, they’ve had oral sex, but they didn’t realize that cold sores = Herpes and cold sores in the mouth + genitals = Herpes down low.
Today’s statistics show that 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 12 have genital herpes (as determined by blood antibody testing), but only 10% are aware that they have it! HPV (the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer) is so common that it’s estimated that 50-75% of sexually active 15-59 year olds will become infected. Look around your next class and do the math to realize how many of your peers might share these diseases.
Chlamydia is silent in 50% of guys, and 75% of women – no wonder it gets passed around so easily! If you catch chlamydia (or gonorrhea) and it gets diagnosed EARLY, it is treated very simply with a short course of antibiotics for you and your partner. If, however, you bury your head in the sand and pretend that because you have no symptoms and you haven’t slept with anyone “yucky” that you’re not at risk, (and therefore, conveniently choose not to be tested), both chlamydia and gonorrhea can sit around and silently scar your reproductive tract potentially leaving you infertile down the road. While I’m sure most of you have no desire to be pregnant now, I’d bet most of you would like to have that option in the future.
So, take a good look in the mirror and ask that wonderful woman staring back at you, “Have you had ANY sexual partners (including oral, anal, or vaginal) since you were last tested?” If the answer is YES, go schedule an appointment to get checked out. This is not about being “good” or “bad,” and no medical provider is there to judge you. Trust me, you’ve done nothing any experienced doctor hasn’t heard or seen before, and our goal is simply to maximize your health, both now and for the future.
Don’t lie to yourself or hide from the truth. The best way to protect your body and future health is to get up and find out the truth. Stop worrying about sitting on public toilet seats and start realizing where the real risks for STDs are lurking!
For more information and STD facts, check out JillGrimesMD.com. If you’ve had enough dry facts in your statistics class and are looking for a more engaging way to learn, grab Jill’s book, Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs, which reads like episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and highlights accurate facts throughout the dialogue.