Doctors and nurses at the University of Arizona are expecting another influx of students reporting symptoms in what has become an annual cycle for health care providers on campus. "We tend to see [STDs] more just after the beginning of school," said Faye Libbey, a nurse practitioner in the Women's Health Clinic. "Freshmen come in who've never been away from home before. They're having relationships that they've never had. They don't even have to have intercourse to get [some STDs], just skin-to-skin contact," Libbey said.

Of 1,281 UA students randomly surveyed in an anonymous questionnaire this spring, about 2 percent reported having human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer in women or genital warts for men and women; 2 percent reported having chlamydia; 1 percent genital herpes; and 1 percent gonorrhea. But the statistics are not completely accurate because some students who have STDs are unaware of them, said Melissa McGee, coordinator of campus harm and risk reduction.

HPV is the STD that Campus Health Center workers see most often. About 80 percent of sexually active people will contract the virus at some point in their life, according to the National HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center. About 20 million people in the United States have the virus.

Abstaining from sex is the best way to prevent diseases like HPV, said Stephen Paul, a campus physician. "The thing people need to realize is that the condom only protects you where the condom is," Paul said. Female condoms are more effective than male condoms for protecting women from HPV because they cover more of the external skin surrounding the vagina, Libbey said. But according to one nurse, female condoms are not popular, possibly because of the "squeaking" noise about which some girls have complained.

Back to other CDC news for October 8, 2002

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