As a Gaucho, you’re probably aware of UCSB’s notorious reputation, namely that of a high STI rate among the general student population. Alongside “U Can Study Buzzed,” we’re boasting the nicknames “University of Casual Sex and Beer” and “UCSTD.” As soon as I got accepted, the rumors of one in four STI-infected students plagued me.

However, according to Malek Guerbaoui, Sex and Relationships liaison at the office of Student Health, the rates for UCSB “are right on par with the national average … going to UCSB results in no higher likelihood of contracting an STI.”

While waiting in the office of Student Health for an STI test, a few unnerving thoughts come to mind. The first one comes from a story my friend told me about an archaic method of STI testing that involves the insertion of an umbrella-like object into unmentionable parts, only for it to be to pried open and scraped to collect God knows what. The second thought: “What if I actually have something?” I mean, I haven’t had the most active year, mind you, but these test results could change my life in grave and unpredictable ways. I guess HPV wouldn’t be so bad for me, and I know chlamydia can be taken care of easily, but the big ones? I shudder to think…

The wait is short and Phlebotomist Nicky Guzmán draws two vials of blood quickly and painlessly. UCSB provides walk-in service for STI testing of HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea: blood is drawn for HIV and syphilis for free if you have USHIP insurance, and there is a $20 fee per urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Urine testing is most effective if one hasn’t urinated for over an hour before the test. The entire test, including registering and waiting, took approximately 20 minutes, though I only had blood drawn.

The UCSB Student Health center also readily offers other types of tests for STIs, though they require meeting with a physician. HPV, herpes and molluscum contagiosum (warts caused by a poxvirus after direct contact with an affected area) can be treated after a visual exam with a physician. For ladies, vaginal infections such as yeast infections require pelvic exams. Appointments for all of these exams can be made via the UCSB Student Health website.

Having gone through the process of STI testing, I can tell you that it was easy and well worth it. It is better to know about these things sooner than later, and Guerbaoui suggests that, even if you don’t show any symptoms, an STI test may be worth your while: “the number one symptom of STIs is not having symptoms.”

Getting regular STI tests is the mature and responsible thing to do, not only for your own health, but also for the health of people with whom you engage in sexual relations. You put them at risk if you put off STI testing.

The Student Health STI information packet makes one message incredibly clear. Bolded, underlined and italicized: “Condom use can minimize your chances of contracting all of the above infections.”