South Dakota ranks 19 in the nation in gonorrhea reports. 15-to-24-year-olds, which constitute the majority of the USD student body, are at the highest risk to contract sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Anthony Burbach, a physician assistant and employee health provider at Sanford Health, said he recommends individuals test for STDs after each new partner.
“Whenever they have a new exposure, a new partner or an old partner tells them they have been exposed to something,” he said. “It is just part of being a responsible, sexually active adult, every time you get a new exposure just to get tested.”
Sanford Student Health services offer reduced prices for STD testing. However, to complete the four main STD tests — HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis — it still costs around $100.
A general visit to student health is free, but Burbach said for every test there has to be a fee.
“Nothing is free, to be blunt. The visit itself is free so they can come and talk to me about things and that’s the free component talked about,” he said.
HIV and syphilis are blood tests while chlamydia and gonorrhea are urine tests. Because of the prices, Burbach said some individuals choose only to test for some, not all. This, he said, he does not recommend.
“I can usually convince them that it’s important to do all four,” he said. “If you are concerned about one and have an exposure to one you really should be checking for all of them.”
STDs don’t always come with symptoms. Chlamydia is known as the “silent” infection. It, along with gonorrhea, if left untreated can lead to major health issues in the future.
For females, untreated STDs can lead to inflammatory disease and pelvic pain. Untreated STDs can lead to infertility in men, Burbach said.
“Not everyone has symptoms and if you don’t do the testing, you might not know that you have an STD,” he said. “Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both caused by bacteria that are treatable with antibiotics.”
If students don’t want to test, Burbach said they can always come in for a visit to talk about safe sex practices.
He said he encourages students to get tested if they are sexually active.
“STD testing shouldn’t be looked at as a negative. It is part of being a responsible sexually active adult,” he said. “Anyone who is having new partners should be doing this to take care of themselves and also just to be respectful of their new partners.”