College-Age Population at Risk for Chlamydia

Although chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States according to CDC, many people infected are unaware of it. No symptoms present in about 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men. "If they don't know they have an infection, they might pass it on," said Chi-Wai Au, communications coordinator of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services' STD program. Having chlamydia makes a person three to five times more vulnerable to HIV infection, said Au.

Au said young people should be aware of chlamydia, which infects the reproductive organs including the cervix in women and urethra in men. People can contract it through unprotected sex and through contact with semen, vaginal fluid or discharge. Symptoms can include pain during urination or intercourse, increased discharge from the vagina and watery discharge from the penis. It can cause sterility for men, and in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy. Oral antibiotics can cure chlamydia but do not prevent reinfections.

People ages 20-24 have the highest infection rate of any population in Los Angeles County, followed by teens ages 15-19, according to a 2001 county health report.

"Many students are very concerned and get tested for HIV, and that's fine," said Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, executive director of the University Park Health Center. "But their risk of HIV infection ... is much lower than their risk of chlamydia."

"I haven't heard of it," said Annie Rani, a graduate student in the USC professional writing program. "I've heard a lot about AIDS and STDs."

Although students do not need a doctor's examination to get tested for chlamydia, Neinstein recommended that they get one. Women can be tested during a pelvic exam. For men, a doctor can swab their urethra. LADHS recommends that sexually active persons under 25 get tested for chlamydia every six months to a year.