SHAC, the Student Health Advisory Committee is ready to bring you another installment of health care info. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is a thought that crosses many students’ minds, though some have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. For those Spinal Tap fans, it’s important to remember that not all STDs are visible, and therefore testing is recommended.

What’s the deal with herpes testing? I hear that you have to request testing during any kind of routine exam.

Each patient must request a herpes test from his or her clinician. Unlike Pap smears, which test for cervical cancer caused by Human Papilloma Virus, herpes tests are not automatically included in regular gynecological exams. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), cervical cancer has dropped almost 50 percent since annual cervical screening began in the early ’70s.

It is important to emphasize, however, that a Pap smear is not a screening of STDs. It is merely a test for abnormal cellular growth in the cervix. Most practitioners will routinely screen for chlamydia with every pelvic exam for women 18 to 25. However, it is not an actual component of the test, so be sure to ask if it’s included. Various STDs require a urine test, and others, like herpes, require a blood test. Others have no practical test if symptoms are not present. If you want to be tested for any STD – and there are many – you must inform your doctor of your request. Although there is no cure for the herpes virus, there are medications that can repress the symptoms, severity and frequency of outbreaks.

I hear there are new guidelines for the Pap smear. What could they have possibly changed now?

In July of 2003, ACOG issued new recommendations pertaining to the Pap smear frequency. They advise all women to begin pelvic examinations about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. If, after this first test, the results are normal, there is no need to have a Pap smear every year. However, it is important that women keep up with their annual gynecological exams to prevent cervical cancer and minimize the spread of STDs. Additional tests depend on the results of previous tests and other factors.

I could never get a Pap smear. It’s too uncomfortable and I would be so embarrassed!

I will not lie to you ladies; getting a Pap smear is uncomfortable. I mean, who really likes lying on their back spread-eagle while a virtual stranger starts poking around down south? The reality is, though, that annual Pap smears are crucial to women’s health, especially young women on a college campus. So, gather your strength, calm your nerves and take a look at these tips.

First, get comfortable with your doctor and the procedure. Your doctor or healthcare practitioner will be more than happy to answer any of the questions you may have. During the procedure, engage in conversation. Talking is an excellent way to take your mind off what is happening under your examination robe. A gynecologist is like a bartender; they’re hard to talk to at first, but as time goes on, they become your best friend. Most importantly, though, relax. Being tense causes your vaginal walls to contract, making it harder for the clinician to insert the hardware into your cervix, where test cells are gathered. Relaxing will make everything go much quicker and before you know it, you’ll be skipping out of the office.

What is the male version of STD testing?

Routing screening labs include urine tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea and blood tests for syphilis and HIV. If a student reports symptoms that indicate an infection, the clinician may collect samples with a Q-tip swab from the penis to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Sores on the genitals may be swabbed for a herpes culture.

Marquesa Finch is a junior art history major and Monique Sherman is a senior political science and law & society major. Send your health queries to Patient Advocate Neco Armstrong at .