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“It was somebody that I trusted,” Carrie, 24, said of her now ex-boyfriend who admitted to having cheated on her with more than 15 people in their year-and-a-half relationship. “And he betrayed my trust in more ways than one.”
In February, Carrie’s (junior, nutrition) spring semester began with not only the expected strenuous junior workload but also the knowledge that she had contracted human papillomavirus from a long-term relationship that ended in June 2013.
“I had a panic attack,” Carrie said, “and a friend of mine took me to the hospital.”
Carrie said that years before, she had opted out of taking the recommended HPV vaccine at her family’s doctor’s office in Maryland.
“He was the only partner that I had in those two years,” Carrie said.
She said she has had a total of four sexual partners.
“It’s affecting my school life because I’m going back and forth between Johns Hopkins, here and UPMC,” Carrie said. “I’ve missed classes.”
But Carrie is not the only Indiana University of Pennsylvania student to contract a sexually transmitted infection – or HPV for that matter.
The Penn distributed a survey April 17 to a randomized sample of 1,000 undergraduate students regarding the prevalence of STIs among IUP students.
Out of the 99 respondents, 6 percent said they currently have an STI, and 8 percent said they previously had an STI. That is a total of 14 percent of respondents who have contracted an STI at some point.
Out of the total respondents, 10 percent either have or had chlamydia; 4 percent have or had gonorrhea; and 3 percent have or had HPV.
At IUP’s Center for Health and Well-Being, 423 students were tested for STIs from Aug. 19 to April 15 this academic year.
Forty-eight students, or 11 percent, were diagnosed with gonorrhea, syphilis or chlamydia, according to Nurse Director Melissa Dick. Thirteen individuals were diagnosed with herpes. When including herpes in the results, 14 percent of students who have visited the health center from Aug. 19 to April 15 were tested positive for an STI, which is parallel to the survey results conducted by The Penn.
However, those numbers only reflect the results of IUP students who have been tested at the IUP Health Center.
The number of STI screening tests students get done at the Health Center occasionally fluctuates, according to Health Center Nurse Practitioner Jeanne McClure.
“I do see a lot of testing right at the beginning of the semester, right at the end of the semester and after spring break,” McClure said. “This semester, we’ve seen a little less positive results.”
McClure has been working at the IUP Health Center for five and a half years and previously worked at Adagio Health, another sexual health screening facility for IUP students.
Other Pennsylvania state schools keep track of the student STI screenings at their university health centers.
At Millersville University’s health center, fewer students were screened for STIs, and a lower percentage was tested positive between Aug. 26 and April 21 compared to IUP.
According to Millersville Nurse Supervisor Joanne Ocasio, 176 students were tested in total and 34, or 19 percent, were tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea.
While fewer students went to Slippery Rock University’s health center for testing, more students were diagnosed with an STI between June 2012 and May 2013, compared to IUP’s 2013-14 numbers so far.
Out of the total 375 Slippery Rock students screened for an STI, 43 were tested positive for chlamydia, 23 for herpes, and 27 for HPV, according to the Slippery Rock Coordinator of Health Promotions Renee Bateman.
However, the numbers for each school only reflect the STI tests of those who chose to use the school’s health services.
Depending on the disease or infection contracted, the recovery period and process can be relatively short-lived or have long-term repercussions.
In Carrie’s case, she said she has to take daily medication and go to a lot of doctor’s appointments.
“The area on the cervix where my cancer cells are is so large that it requires radiation to take the size down in order to have a surgery and to have it removed,” Carrie said. “It kind of feels like the end of the world, but it’s not.”
She said that doctors caught the infection at an early stage.
“But for now it’s just a lot of doctors and a lot of medicine,” she said.
Her medical procedure includes getting tested every year for cancer in the esophagus, three pap smears a year until surgery and taking a daily pill to prevent illness due to radiation.
But a lot of Carrie’s concerns are that others may contract HPV from the same person that gave it to her.
“When I informed him, he said that it wasn’t his problem,” she said. “There’s this sense of shame that comes with it – so you hide it and then risk everybody else’s health in the same process.”
Having unprotected sex with the knowledge of having an STI falls under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat 2705, recklessly endangering another person.
The statute states: “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury,” according to law.onecle.com.
“My mom filed for a criminal investigation,” Carrie said. “She has reason to believe that he knew that he had this and was still doing as he pleased.”
Carrie’s mother previously had cervical cancer.
Carrie has been dating another IUP student since October 2013 and has been open about the whole situation with him, she said. She said that she is open about testing positive for HPV with her teachers, friends and family.
“You’re in college; you feel like you’re invincible, but you’re not,” Carrie said. “I feel like, if I tell people, then they’re less likely to make that mistake.
“No matter who it is, I wouldn’t trust them.”