Feb 262004
 
Authors: Taylour Nelson

It is a fact that some college students are carrying sexually

transmitted diseases.

One out of two young Americans will get an STD by the age of 25,

according to a study released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a

non-profit health research organization.

The study, “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,”

provides research and analysis on reproductive and sexual health

and rights.

Claire Smith, clinic coordinator for Hartshorn Health Service,

said chlamydia, herpes and the human papillomavirus are the most

common types of diseases among the college-age population.

In a college setting, sexually active people will tend to have a

higher number of partners, and when a disease can grow undetected,

that disease can spread quickly if people are not using protection,

she said.

Chlamydia, the most frequently reported STD in America, is

undetectable in two-thirds of women and nearly half of men who

contract the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control

and Prevention.

Still, even with their prevalence, STDs are not common topics of

discussion.

“It’s not something you talk about,” said Michelle Wedell, a

senior civil engineering major. “It’s embarrassing.”

This could be because certain assumptions can be made about

people with an STD, said Larry Bloom, a psychology professor who

teaches the Psychology of Human Sexuality course.

“First and foremost, that you were not careful in your sexual

activity,” he said. “You didn’t use protection, and you’re seen as

a person who is sexually active.”

Sean Billings, a sophomore management major, said his perception

of a person who has contracted an STD is not always accurate.

“The first thing I think is that they sleep around,” he said.

“But, you can do only one (sexual) thing and get an STD.”

Jenny Joao, a sophomore political science student, said one of

her friends who has not had intercourse, but is sexually active,

had a scare with a partner who carried HPV, more commonly known as

genital warts.

“My friend was so scared when she found out, because she’s still

a virgin,” Joao said. “She didn’t use protection, and she still got

HPV.”

Joao said her friend is now more cautious in her sexual

endeavors.

“Now, she’s a lot more reserved. She’s really scared to do

anything (sexual),” she said.

Smith said when students come to Hartshorn Health Service,

alcohol is one of the main circumstances surrounding their fear of

having contracted an STD.

“When these people come in thinking they have an STD, alcohol is

usually a factor,” she said. “But I see a lot more people who just

don’t know a lot about their partners.”

Smith said those who do test positive for an STD at Hartshorn

tend to have a similar reaction.

“Grieving. I’d say that is how most people react. Then they say

‘why did this happen to me?'” Smith said. “I see that not just in

young people, but everyone.”

Richard Mulledy, a senior civil engineering major, said he has

heard the myths of contracting an STD through inanimate objects

like a toilet seat or a towel, but he does not believe them.

“It might be a myth, but I still wouldn’t test it,” he said.

Smith said a wary attitude toward STDs can be a good thing.

“There are some things we need to be a little bit scared about,”

Smith said. “Just scared enough that we pay a lot of attention to

them and respect ourselves and someone else.”

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