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Dear Sexpert,

A few days ago, one of my friends told me she was diagnosed with chlamydia. Like her, I have hooked up with different partners on lots of weekends. I’m worried because she didn’t notice any symptoms, but when one of her partners told her he had chlamydia, she got tested and tested positive. So I guess I’m worried now that I could have it and not know. Should I get tested? Does McCosh Health Center do that?

- Chlamydianxious

Dear Chlamydianxious,

Before talking about getting tested, let’s talk about the basics. Chlamydia, a bacteria, is the most commonly reported STI in the United States. The bacteria are transmitted through anal, vaginal and oral sex. Chlamydia can cause symptoms such as a burning and painful sensation upon urination and abnormal discharge in both men and women. In women, chlamydia infections can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to abdominal and pelvic pain. In men, pain and swelling in one or both testicles can occur. Chlamydia can also infect the rectum in both men and women, causing symptoms such as rectal pain, discharge and bleeding. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, so if you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention from the practitioners at University Health Services. If left untreated, the bacteria can damage a woman’s reproductive organs and lead to pregnancy complications and infertility later in life. Very rarely, chlamydia can also lead to infertility in men.

Like your friend, however, many people with chlamydia infections show no symptoms and may be unaware of their infection and unknowingly spreading the bacteria. Up to 80 percent of infected women and 50 percent of infected men do not exhibit symptoms of chlamydia. Additionally, weeks can pass after the initial time of infection before the onset of symptoms.

To answer your question about testing for chlamydia: because symptoms are not always present with chlamydia infections and the long-term consequences can be serious, the CDC recommends chlamydia screening for sexually active women age 25 and under every year. Women and men who have multiple sexual partners and do not always use a barrier method (e.g. condom, dental dam) during sexual activity may be at higher risk for contracting chlamydia and should be tested as well. Men who have receptive anal sex with other men should also be tested every year. Chlamydia and gonorrhea testing are done together at Sexual Health and Wellness Services at UHS and cost $14. Whether you should be tested or how frequently can be determined by speaking with a clinician about your specific risk factors.

The only way to completely avoid chlamydia is to abstain from oral, vaginal and anal sexual contact altogether.  As always, however, the Sexpert supports risk reduction. In the case of chlamydia, correct and consistent use of condoms and dental dams can reduce the risk of contracting chlamydia.

Stay safe,

- The Sexpert

Information regarding chlamydia provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Princeton University Health Services websites.

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