Despite the rate of gonorrhea and chlamydia rising nationwide, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln continues to see a decline.
Data from the University Health Center from 2014 to 2019 reveals the number of test specimens, or samples tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia, have increased steadily from 2014 to 2019. However, the percentage of these tests that are positive has declined from 8.4% in 2014 to 6.5% in 2019. UHC director Heather Eberspacher said there is not a definite explanation for this, as STD rates are rising nationally.
“We definitely are seeing more people coming in, hopefully, because we have removed some of the barriers to getting tested,” she said. “People are feeling a lot more comfortable coming in and taking the tests. As far as the positive results, nationwide, we’re seeing an increase in positive results because there is a trend of not using condoms, so I wouldn’t know why the numbers on campus are going down other than I hope we are educating people better.”
The data analyzes the number of specimens for both gonorrhea and chlamydia and compares it with the number of specimens that returned positive, according to Eberspacher. She said each patient can have between one to three specimens tested.
“We currently give three tests: oral, anal and a urine test,” she said. “One person could be responsible for three specimens. However, if a patient tells us they have not had anal or oral sex in the past six months, we do not need to administer that specific test.”
Eberspacher said the decline could be explained by campus efforts to promote safe sex. She said factors on campus that could have played a part in the decline include the LGBTQA+ Center’s educational programs and free condom initiatives and the UHC’s free testing.
The data also showed the results for both gonorrhea and chlamydia are generally greatest in March and October. Eberspacher said this is mainly because students tend to get tested before the fall and spring breaks.
“We always will see a climb on people coming in, as well as positive results right around breaks,” she said. “Everybody goes away for both of those and tends to have a good time. That’s when we would see more people coming in and being concerned because they either had a sexual experience, or they want to make sure everything’s okay before they go somewhere.”
Eberspacher said it’s important to stay educated, use a condom or other contraceptives, test regularly and communicate with sexual partners about STI history.
“The best thing you can do is educate yourself so that you understand how you can get [an STI], and don’t assume everything you do is safe,” she said. “Even if you use all the barriers available to you and stay safe, your partner may have had a night in their past where they haven’t been necessarily safe, and they could have gotten something that way.”