By Jacklyn Garcia “STD.” Just three little letters can easily strike fear in a person’s heart. STDs are no laughing matter and never have been, yet so many are still uninformed or even confused about them. How do you know if you have one? How can you stay safe? Are they curable? I sat down with Melissa Mendoza-Ramirez, a prevention specialist from the TAMIU/SCAN Prevention Project, to get the answers to these questions and more. So what exactly are STDs? It’s in the acronym: they’re Sexually Transmitted Diseases, infections caused by different bacteria or viruses. STDs cover a wide variety of infections and these include the infamous AIDS and HIV strain. Some are even life altering and stick with you forever without a cure, such as genital or oral herpes. That’s why, according to Mendoza-Ramirez, it’s important to protect yourself. But how? Practicing safe sex using condoms is one way. “So many people forget that condoms aren’t only to prevent pregnancy but to also protect your from contracting any of these terrible diseases,” says Mendoza-Ramirez, who also went on to suggest abstinence and something as simple as knowing who you’re with and their sexual history. Little things can go a long away, and as she said during our interview, why take the risk? But why the misconceptions? Why, if all this knowledge is out there and readily available, are some people or even some college students still unaware? Melissa Mendoza-Ramirez sees it differently, “With college students one of the main things is your new freedom and independence and sometimes bad things happen when you take advantage of that new freedom.” When asked about common misconceptions, she also noted that some students think, “It’ll never happen to me.” Some of them might even think that it’s impossible for their partners to have STDs because of how young they are (considering an 18-24 year age range). But Mendoza-Ramirez advises, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Finding out if you have an STD is no guessing game. The only sure fire way to know is if you get tested. Most self-diagnose, according to Mendoza-Ramirez, but symptoms can only tell you so much. Luckily, SCAN (which stands for “Serving Children and Adults in Need”), located at 1605 Saldana Avenue and reachable at (956)724-3177, is available to help. At SCAN, employees can provide you additional STD info, condoms, and they also offer HIV testing. Absolutely no ID is required and anyone can go. SCAN is all about helping the community in all that they do and they further show this by offering hepatitis and HIV testing on May 19th, 2017. Anyone can go and it’ll be absolutely free of charge; what more could you ask for? So save the date but also do some research to protect yourself. Knowledge is power and you only have one life; don’t risk it at all and stay safe from STDs.