Campus chlamydia prevalence increases, endangers students’ fertility

Geneseo has seen chlamydia cases climb since the beginning of the fall 2017 semester, related to a surge in instances nationwide. Pictured above is a condom dispenser in Wayne Hall, which serves as one of the methods Lauderdale Health & Counseling uses to prevent students from contracting sexually transmitted infections, as Lauderdale will continue to place dispensers in residence halls across campus. (Annalee Bainnson/photo editor)

Geneseo has experienced a rise in the number of cases of chlamydia, matching national trends. Lauderdale Health & Counseling has begun initiatives to increase health promotion as a response. 

Rates of sexually transmitted infections have increased across the country since the beginning of the academic year in August. The chlamydia prevalence rate has risen to around 6 percent, according to Coordinator of Health Promotion Dana Minton. 

Geneseo has experienced a rise in chlamydia cases along with these national trends, according to Lauderdale Interim Administrative Director and Medical Director Steven Radi. 

“What’s being seen at Geneseo is being seen nationwide,” Radi said. “The [Center for Disease Control] sent us a report a couple weeks ago that reported the highest number of cases in history of positive chlamydia, around 1.6 million cases ... All I know is that we need to work to prevent this, because this is not an insignificant infection, but it is absolutely preventable.”

Undetected chlamydia can result in complications that lead to infertility, according to Radi. Since the STI often does not present any symptoms for women who have contracted it, the risk of chlamydia becomes exacerbated, according to Radi.

Lauderdale has not yet increased outreach efforts, but plans to further emphasize the importance of condom use and to provide more information on the rise in STIs, according to Minton. The health center also may be able to provide some free STI testing in the future to supplement the current testing, which as of now costs money. 

“The costs of STI testing here aren’t huge, but every out-of-pocket cost is a lot for some students,” Minton said. “We are also installing condom dispensers in every residence hall, so there’s no need for people to remember to request condom supplies all the time …We push safe sex all the time in our programs … so I think it’s just a matter of emphasizing the reason why to protect yourself, which now is due to higher rates.” 

Lauderdale has had few difficulties addressing the increase in chlamydia cases due to their lack of a permanent administrative director, according to Radi. After the last director Erin Halligan-Avery left at the end of the 2017 academic year, Radi has had to fill the dual role of medical director and interim administrative director. 

“For something like this, not having an administrative director hasn’t made things much more difficult,” he said. “There are other difficulties with her not being here and me taking on some of the other duties at least for this academic year. The thing that’s impacted us a little bit more is that this year we are lower on clinical staff, so we are trying to fill those spots right now.”

The absence of a permanent administrative director does concern Radi in the event of a more serious outbreak in the future, such as the Mumps case that occurred during the fall 2016 semester. 

“Let’s hope we don’t have to deal with that or something similar to that where we don’t have Erin’s expertise this fall.” Radi said. 

Radi also emphasized the caution that students should use when dealing with possible infection. 

“I remember in medical school one of my professors said ‘chlamydia is the epidemic of today and the infertility of tomorrow’ and that is true,” Radi said. “I’m not trying to pick on women, but all women who are 25 or younger who are sexually active are strongly recommended to be screened once a year. With men, there’s a lot we don’t know, but more than half of men have detectable chlamydia so they are more likely to come in to get a checkup. This is important and we need to do everything we can to prevent it.”