Opinion Staff Writer
As a college student, schedules get busy and things always seem to pop up but staying on top of you health is a priority.
Setting up a full sexual health check-up at UNC Asheville’s Health and Counseling Center at the start of each semester may help you get into the habit of regular testing.
Students can receive an STI screening and HIV test free of charge once per semester. STD and STI incubation times vary. According to the Center for Disease Control, it can take up to three months after infection for some STDs to appear in lab results. Though you may not currently be sexually active, a sexually transmitted infection or disease may still be present in your body from three months ago. It is important to receive regular screenings for this reason.
“I highly recommend getting tested every three months or whenever you have a new sexual partner. Make sure you are keeping track of how often you’re getting tested,” said Allison Walter, a sophomore health and wellness student.
Making sure to stay on top of your health should be a top priority. It takes less than a minute to properly apply a condom. That minute very well may save you from a life-changing disease, unwanted pregnancy or STI.
“I’ve been to the health and wellness center every semester at the beginning and end for STI screenings and it’s no big deal and really helps you understand where you stand,” said Jesse Miller, sophomore arts management and entrepreneurship student.
Within UNCA’s small student population, chlamydia is similar to the flu the way students are contracting this sexually transmitted infection. The Buncombe County Department of Public Health was in close contact with the Health and Counseling Center in the past in regard to chlamydia outbreaks on campus.
“We’re a small school so people tend to share sexual partners leading to STDs being passed around more broadly and rapidly,” said Shelby Ingram, a senior atmospherics science student.
With students sharing sexual partners you should make sure you’re paying attention to your body and any changes it may be experiencing. Not all STDs and STIs have symptoms.
“Chlamydia is tough because there aren’t always symptoms in the female. Just because you are not seeing signs of an STD or STI doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get tested. Some are asymptomatic,” Walter said.
Prior to engaging in any sexual activity with your sexual partner, you need to make sure to ask them about their status and tell them your own. The Health and Counseling Center’s portal is easily accessible on smartphones, keeps medical records stored and is accessible for students to check at any time.
“It’s important to just be open and honest about STDs and STIs. If you choose to willingly engage in sexual activities with someone who does have an STD or STI, take proper precautions,” Walter said.
If you contract an STD or STI, you should share that information with your sexual partners immediately.
“Asking your partner to go get tested with you is something that students feel uncomfortable doing,” Walter said. “For a partner to be proactive about their sexual health is attractive to me.”
The Health and Counseling Center provides condoms as well as dental dams for free. This is easily accessible for students who live on or off campus. If students are not able to make it to the Health and Counseling Center, there is a mailing option.
“It’s cool that the Health Center will send bags of contraceptives to students’ mailboxes if they contact the Health and Counseling Center,” Ingram said.
Accidents do happen and condoms are not bulletproof. Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, is available to purchase at the Health and Counseling Center for $35 while most pharmacies and providers charge between $40 to $60 for the exact same contraceptive.
“Using Plan B multiple times doesn’t cause you to be infertile, or other myths that you may have heard, but isn’t intended for regular use. If you find yourself using Plan B multiple times, you might want to look into using birth control,” Walter said.
There are many different types of birth control as well as methods to explore before choosing one. People who choose to take birth control often try different types until they find what works best for them and their body.
“Birth control can exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety due to all of the hormones entering your body. Don’t be afraid to try different mediums of birth control. It took me a very long time and different experimenting to find out what worked best for me. I choose the NuvaRing and love it,” Walter said.
I have tried many different kinds myself and still have not found one that works for me and my body. It takes time. Being patient with your body and keeping in contact and having a good relationship with your doctor helps.
“For contraceptives and birth control, I don’t think you should just rely on girls being on birth control or on guys wearing condoms, doing both and as much as you can is the best idea,” said Jesse Miller.
Stay in control of your health, your life and your body. The health and counseling center is open from 8-5 Monday through Friday if you need to speak with someone. Sexual health and mental health go hand in hand.
“Overall, it’s best to just have safe sex to avoid unplanned pregnancy and the risk of contracting STDs. I think it’s a big way for a person to maintain their mental health,” Ingram said.