Opinion: The only thing you should be scared of this Halloween is STDs

Illustration by Lindsay Hart

Bryce Randall, Contributing Writer

The spookiest time of the year is upon us: Halloween. Many of us dress up and go out for a few nights of partying, booze and promiscuity. I’d like to take the time to issue a warning — STD cases are at an all-time high. So, if you’re planning on spicing things up this Halloween, be responsible and wrap it up. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of STD cases has risen in the United States over the past few years. The most recent report from the CDC analyzes the increase in STD cases diagnosed from 2017 to 2018:

  • More than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were diagnosed in 2018. 
  • More than 115,000 syphilis cases 
  • 580,000 cases of gonorrhea
  • 1.7 million cases of chlamydia

Moreover, the numbers are still climbing in 2019. You would think that with the consistent rise of STD cases, people would take the hint and be more cautious, but apparently not. 

Virginia is no exception to these statistics — our state has also been seeing a rise in the number of reported cases of STDs. According to data provided by the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia saw a 22% increase in chlamydia diagnoses during 2018. Syphilis cases increased by 52%, and gonorrhea diagnoses have risen by 71%. 

The data provided by the CDC implies that, as college students, we are part of the grouping of factors that “drive the continued increase in STDs.” This is primarily due to the decreased use of condoms among vulnerable groups, including young people, along with gay and bisexual men. It just so happens VCU is a very diverse campus that fits perfectly into this category. We need to do better. 

The most effective way to prevent the spread of STDs is abstinence. But we all know this is not practical, so let’s move on to another way to prevent STDs: condoms. Lucky for you, The VCU Wellness Center gives out condoms for free through its “Condom Concierge” program. There are a variety of brands and styles of condoms to suit your needs.  

If the Wellness Center does not have your preferred brand of condom, just go out and buy some. For those of you who are riding the “broke train,” I sympathize. Spending money to buy your personal favorite brand of condoms isn’t always cheap — especially since we are operating on a college budget — but neither is the medication for an STD. The treatment for chlamydia alone is, on average, around $36. Honestly, you might as well spend the mere $4 or $5 for the box of condoms. 

What about unprotected sex makes it worth the risk? The few minutes of satisfaction cannot possibly be worth catching a disease that could potentially make your life miserable. Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause painful or burning sensations, discharge and bleeding in the area of infection. Interestingly enough, these symptoms are nothing compared to syphilis. 

Syphilis symptoms vary but in the primary stage can cause skin sores. Left untreated, in the secondary stage syphilis can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue. But wait, there’s more. In the case that syphilis has been left undiagnosed and untreated for longer than 10 years, it can develop into the tertiary stage. In this stage, it’s possible it will begin to affect your body’s heart, brain and nervous system. Tertiary syphilis can even result in death. Scary, right?

In many cases, people with these diseases do not show symptoms. So, it would also be in everyone’s best interest to go to VCU Student Health Services or to a free clinic in the area and get tested. Condoms prevent the spread of STDs, but so does knowledge about your STD status.  

Going out, partying and having fun are completely fine. However, we still need to be responsible. STD cases are reaching new highs and, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to keep those rising statistics off our campus. Trick-or-treat. Make good choices.

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