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It is impractical to believe that college students will not be sexually active. Not using the appropriate preventive measures (i.e. a condom) can lead to both unintended and unwanted consequences, high-risk situations or not. It is obvious that changes need to be made. But where to begin?

Written by Ivy Abiona for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness

They are more common than an all-nighter to finish a term paper or cramming for a final exam. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But the fact that STDS have a high prevalence among college aged students in the United States is alarming. One in four college students today has some kind of STD, a shocking 25 percent. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 19 million new cases of STDs occur every year, half of them occuring in people between 15 to 24 years old. I can’t say that I am a math whiz but let’s just say I don’t like the odds.

After doing some investigating I found that a primary reason for these high rates was a lack of education. As a New Jersey (yes, New Jersey) high school graduate I found this to be somewhat puzzling. I remember learning about different STDS and preventive measures. Even the nurse’s office had signs and posters describing this information. Don’t all students learn about prevention and safe sex in their health education courses in middle and/or in high school? 

A 2006 study by the CDC demonstrates that my optimistic perspective is a utopian flaw. The CDC study indicated that among U.S. high schools, 28 percent taught 11 key pregnancy, HIV, or other STD prevention topics in a required health education course.  In addition, while 87 percent of high schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs in a required health education course, only 39 percent taught how to correctly use a condom in a required health education course.  Clearly, high school students are in dire need of preventive and safe sex education and just teaching abstinence isn’t going to cut it. Early last month, the Guttmacher Institute released new research reaffirming other data and information that a comprehensive sexual education (teaching both abstinence and preventive measures) not only helps teens delay sex but also has a positive impact on other decisions when they do, such as partner selection.

Now, fast forward three months later and the high school senior is a college freshman. It is possible that this student attends college in another state or across the country; either way this student probably living in a campus dorm no longer under the direct influence of mom and dad. Also, this student is experiencing all of the liberating feelings that come along with college -- making your own decisions, the freedom of living on your own, and meeting lots of new peers who will eventually become lifelong friends. And I would be remiss to mention the countless opportunities to party, let’s be real here we are talking about college. College creates an environment that can put many students in high-risk situations including having unprotected sex. Over 45 percent of college freshmen who have been binge drinking and under the influence of alcohol failed to use protection when engaging in sexual intercourse. Fifteen percent of these students contracted and/or spread STD's amongst other college students. In addition, 7 percent of the students who contracted and/or spread STDs amongst other college students were unaware of their condition.

Check out this poster called "STDS on College Campuses." It includes illustrations and depictions of the statistics and facts about sexual diseases as well as certain risk factors. What if these were sold on college campuses during Welcome Back week or hung in the hallways, preferably near the elevator? Just a thought.

It is impractical to believe that college students will not be sexually active. Not using the appropriate preventive measures (i.e. a condom) can lead to both unintended and unwanted consequences, high-risk situations or not. Eighty percent of people who have an STD experience no noticeable symptoms. Also, some STDs are treatable and curable while others are not. Preventing most STDs is a lot easier than treating most STDs. Prevention measures such as condom distribution, STD testing, and STD counseling are provided on most university and college campuses through the university’s student health service center. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone at your school’s student health service center, there are many options available online. Please visit the website of the National Coalition of STD Directors to find STD testing and referral information.

It is obvious that changes need to be made. But where to begin? Better promotion of sexual health-related courses can help make sure that college students are getting better information. In reality, however, this does not mean that these courses will reach the majority of the student body population.

Another area that could provide potential assistance is in the dorms. Typically, in every college dorm there are house proctors or an upperclassman monitor who is available to the students. The influence of these house proctors can be vital in disseminating sex health education (i.e. advice and information about services, etc).  This can be an effective option because most colleges require all freshmen to live in campus dorms. Educating house proctors on sexual health can assist in college students using preventive measures. For most, sexual health is a personal and sometimes difficult topic to openly talk about.

Therefore, I suggest a monthly distribution of a bag for all dorm rooms. This can be filled with information that includes risk factors, signs and symptoms, where to find nearby services, and condoms. This is also a great way for various student organizations and clubs on campus to get involved and have their input on critical sexual health issues.  This way for at least approximately 9 out of the 12 months of the year, college students are getting sexual health related information.

It’s your sex life. Get Yourself Talking. Get Yourself Tested. Be Responsible.

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Comment Preferences

  •  EVERY student should be required to take sex-ed. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nephew, catwho

    Birth control and condoms should be FREE.

  •  I have a ton of friends that do not (6+ / 0-)

    use condoms.  They are proud of that too.  I use them unless I'm in a commited relationship and we have gone to get tested together.

    Veritas Omnia Vincit

    by The Nephew on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 01:32:48 PM PDT

    •  Really? I've experienced the opposite? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Nephew, sebastianguy99, hepshiba

      Maybe it's because I'm a girl? But most of my girlfriends carry condoms with them and use birth control. I'm not a fan of not using condoms even in a committed relationship. Pregnancy is not a viable option. UA has a big fraternity/sorority presence they constantly have events about safe sex, do they honor it, maybe?
      The IUD and NuvaRing is the most common among my group of friends/classmates. I also checked my University website and saw that these two methods were also quite popular compared to pills. The UA is pretty open to how much pills cost. All of it is out of pocket though, so that may be a barrier to birth control. Condoms however are $9 for a 100 pack.

      When the operation of the machine becomes so odious that you can't take part,you've got to put your bodies upon the gears;you got to make it stop.Indicate to the people who run it that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all

      by YoungArizonaLiberal on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 03:08:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You should anyway. (0+ / 0-)

      Mucus membranes in various locations around the body can get micro-tears during sex that allow pathogens entry.  And the porn industry seems to be intent on promoting the spread of Hepatitis A, since the abbreviation 'ATM' now has a meaning beyond banking...

      That being said, back when I was younger and still having 'relations', I was less careful even than you are.  I'd like to think I'd be a lot more careful now that I've spent so much time studying healthcare...

  •  AO vs Comprehensive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    uciguy30, The Nephew, ninkasi23

    AO: Don't do it.  Wait until you are married.  You won't get pregnant if you don't have sex.  What are these STDs you speak of?

    Comprehensive: We'd tell you not to do it, but you're going to do it anyway, so here's how not to get knocked up or diseased.

    What AO people think comprehensive is: Go out and sleep with everyone you encounter, you filthy sluts and studs.  Condoms kill babies.  Here's how to give a great BJ.  You're now prepared to work in the porn industry.

    What comprehensive people know AO is: If you drink bleach you won't get pregnant.  You can't get STDs the first time you have sex.  HIV only happens to gay people. God only gives babies to girls who want/need them, so if you get pregnant you secretly wanted to be a mom or are destined to be one.

    Tradition says that God gave us choice. Some of His disciples act like it is up to them to remove it. ~ kjoftherock

    by catwho on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 01:36:10 PM PDT

  •  Interesting. Here at the University of Arizona (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nephew, hepshiba

    we have this thing called Sex Talk which is a weekly column that is given to everyone who lives on campus in a dorm and it is also published in the school newspaper. It's pretty informative. We also have FERPA which disallows parents to have access to their adult child's medical records so they can go and access Women's Health Services with a nominal fee.

    Among UA students, the top 3 sexually
    transmitted diseases (STDs) are
    gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HPV (human
    papilloma virus).
    I expect the HPV numbers to go down, every gal I know has had the HPV shot.

    When the operation of the machine becomes so odious that you can't take part,you've got to put your bodies upon the gears;you got to make it stop.Indicate to the people who run it that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all

    by YoungArizonaLiberal on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 02:57:24 PM PDT

  •  Where on the CDC website is the 19 million number? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nephew

    The most common STD is chlamydia, with an estimated incidence rate of 2.8 million a year, and gonorrhea is another of the most common, and it's only estimated at 700k new cases a year.  Actual reported cases for each are only half that.  Most of the other STD's seem to be listed with new incidences in the 10-20k range, with maybe 50k for HIV/AIDS.  Those totals don't seem to add up to anywhere near an incidence rate of 19 million STDs, so what am I missing, and where on their site is that 19 million?

    (All of the numbers I mention, btw, were from the 2010 CDC surveillance numbers or newer, from various pages of the CDC site itself.)

    •  Ahhhh. I missed HPV at 6.2 million cases (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Nephew

      estimated a year, but even so, that still doesn't seem to add up to 19 million yet, so I must still be missing something else.  Suggestions?

    •  I found the 19 million claim on the CDC site (0+ / 0-)
      CDC estimates that there are approximately 19 million new STD infections yearly. There were more than 1.5 million total cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea reported to CDC in 2009 — making them the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States
      But I still don't see how they arrive at it, even doubling the reported numbers to estimate unreported cases.  The 6.2 million HPV estimate (HPV is apparently not surveilled in and of itself) plus the estimates they're providing in the surveillance reports seem to add up to maybe 10 million, so might whoever wrote up the 19 million line be adding in several diseases not commonly thought of as 'STDs'?   Diseases passed through blood could certainly be passed during rough sex...
  •  when I went to uc santa cruz (0+ / 0-)

    in the late 1970s, everyone took "Female Physiology & Gynecology".  It was the largest lecture course on campus -- 800 students -- and packed to the rafters every year it was taught.  Covered everything you needed to know about STDs and birth control, and then some. Considering there were only a few thousand undergrads at UCSC at the time, a huge percentage of the campus population took it.  Too bad it didn't catch on at colleges all over America.

    "If you fake the funk, your nose will grow." -- Bootsy Collins

    by hepshiba on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:09:44 PM PDT

  •  Three words (0+ / 0-)

    Abstinence Only Education.

    No need for further explanation.

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