Are College Students “Schooled” In Safe Sex?
The process of selecting a college or university for most students and parents is typically based on a variety of factors including academics, location, cost, scholarships, and sporting and social opportunities. Unfortunately, a widely overlooked component of campus life is that of sexual health resources. And while this type of service might be considered a negligible offering by hopeful parents, naïve teens, and early 20-somethings, the need for better sexual health awareness and resources is at an all-time high.
10 MILLION AMERICAN TEENS & COLLEGE AGE INDIVIDUALS ARE INFECTED WITH AN STD EACH YEAR
Of the 20 million new STD infections that occur each year (in the US alone) HALF of these reported STD infections occur in individuals between the ages of 15-24 years old (CDC, 2017). And because so many STDs are “silent,” meaning they do not present any physical or obvious symptoms, that number only accounts for the reported infection instances and does not factor in the millions of undiagnosed, unrecognized, and untreated STD infections that occur each year.
THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE AN STD IS TO GET TESTED
College is a rite of passage for any student. It is also a time of uncertainty, vulnerability, and stress. Between the educational and social stressors of college life, adding another “testing,” requirement to their lives can seem excessive. But the emphasis on sexual health and STD testing during this time is crucial to determining the overall health and well-being of American youth, as teens move into adulthood.
Research is finding that the majority of sex education essentially denies the fact that “sex happens.” And, in so doing, ignores and prevents the awareness that there are ways to safeguard sexual health and that maintaining sexual health also maintains a level of overall wellness.
STDAware believes that the central STD prevention message that should be driven home for young people is that STD testing should be a health priority for any sexually active individual and should be conducted anytime there is a change in sexual partner(s).
STDAware offers 15% off of their testing pricing for all students*. Testing through STDAware is guaranteed to be discreet, private, and confidential. Students do not have to worry if “Mom and dad will see.” STDAware offers a full suite of medical support and advice services to support the testing process and ensuring that appropriate care and treatment is provided when needed. To find out more about the testing solutions provided by STDAware, click here.
Why The STD Rates Are So High In Teens & College Age People
Exploration of sexuality is a substantial part of becoming a young adult and realizing one’s independence and identity. There’s just no getting around the fact that SEX is a vital and defining part of being human. In a world where sex is such an integral and valuable part of life, why is the future of our country so poorly out of touch with their sexual health?
Because Sex Education, in both public and private education systems, focuses mainly on abstinence and condom use, to avoid unwanted, unplanned teen pregnancy, the real risk of STD transmission is largely overlooked. While the proper use of condoms is a vital key to reducing the spread of STDs, awareness of what STDs are (how they are spread, and what high-risk behaviors for STD infection are) is significantly ignored within the realm of formalized sex education.
In an article by UC Santa Barbara’s Daily Nexus, Claire Horsely expounds upon the shortcomings of Sex Ed classes during high school and, as a result, the amount of inaccurate “education” that was gleaned from fellow students rather than teachers. This type of “learning” about sex and sexuality led to conversations with several college freshmen who operated under many widely believed myths about safe sex. Among these dangerous and inaccurate beliefs were: Plan B will stop working if you take it more than three times, that STDs always have symptoms and you can always “tell” if you have an STD, that you can always “tell” if someone else has an STD by looking at them, that you have to “go all the way,” in order to contract an STD, and that oral sex does not pose any STD risk. To quote Ms. Horsely:
“On the surface, their comments may just seem like pure ignorance or stupidity, but, when assessing the potential consequences of their actions or lack of actions, it reflects a public health concern. These girls’ lack of education is a reason why STIs are spreading. Even though we are in a time of incredibly modernized medicine, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infections are at a record high. In fact, Chlamydia accounts for the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (CDC). The CDC states that, “one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.” Why is this? Well, only about 12% of young people were tested in the last year (JAH), so people continue to spread them through unprotected oral, vaginal, and anal sex.”
The issue is compounded by the fact that universities do not offer any type of formal sexual education and young people are further left to search out information on their own while at the same time defining their sexuality and entering into adult-“ish” relationships. To further cite Ms. Horseley:
“Sex Ed is important. It is a fundamental topic in human education, and it helps to strengthen public health. It should be more heavily integrated into university curriculums because college is meant not only to give degrees but to prepare us for the future as informed citizens of the world.”
In addition to the lack of education and resources for sexual health and services, developmental and emotional maturity also play a part in how young adults approach their sexual health. The act of young people finding and seeking sexual health resources comes with a level of embarrassment and stigma, which further contributes to erroneous beliefs about safe sex and the unprecedented high rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis in the United States, today.
THE REAL STIGMA SHOULD BE PLACED ON INDIVIDUALS WHO DO NOT GET ROUTINELY TESTED FOR STDs.
Approximately 750,000 new infections of chlamydia, 197,500 new infections of gonorrhea, and 12,000 new infections of syphilis were reported in American people under the age of 24 in 2016, and the rate of infection continues to increase (CDC, 2017).
The exploration and expansion of sexual relationships during the college years is typically viewed as exciting “new” territory for most students. With the advent of mobile dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr, the ability to find new and multiple partners in a relatively “risk-free” manner has opened an STD “flood-gate.” CDC is now referring to this spike in STD infection as a national epidemic, due to the significant amount of cases nationwide. According to the director the CDC, the increasing rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) “are a clear warning of a growing threat.” And the growing number of infections “is outpacing our ability to respond.”
Add to that the fact that many STDs go undiagnosed for prolonged periods of time and untreated STD infections can lead to serious and severe medical complications such as infertility, damage to the internal organs, certain types of cancers, brain damage, and even death. Routine testing for STDs should be a pre-requisite for any sexually active individual before engaging in sex with a new partner.
THE ONLY WAY TO TREAT AN STD IT TO IDENTIFY IT THROUGH TESTING
Undiagnosed and untreated instances of STD infections can largely be attributed with the ongoing and widespread nature of STDs in America today. Getting tested is the only way to identify and treat any STD condition.
STDAware is the ONLY online testing service provider that offers medical consultation and treatment options to its patients, at no additional charge. To learn more about the no-cost medical and treatment services provided at STDAware, click here.
A statistical gathering by nursingschools.net of 10 “Truly Shocking” statistics on STDs in college students showed that one if four college students has an STD and that only 54% of students regularly use a condom during vaginal sex and only 4% use a condom during oral sex. More than half of the students interviewed for one study believed that they could tell if a person had an STD just by looking at them and 60% of female interviewees would continue to have sex if their partner refused to wear a condom. That same 60% of college-age women reported that they were in committed relationships while only 38% of men said the same.
College relationships are often fickle and ill-defined. And while the fear of appearing “needy” or “clingy,” might give pause, it’s fair to ask the appropriate questions to ensure that everyone is on the same, sexual, page. It’s easy to assume a monogamous situation, but the reality could be very different and come with scary implications.
ONE-FOURTH OF COLLEGE STUDENTS WILL END UP WITH AN STD BY THE END OF THEIR COLLEGE CAREER.
The most common STDs spread during college are herpes, HPV, and chlamydia (HealthCentral, 2016). Of these three most common college-age STD infections, only chlamydia is curable. HPV is the most common STD that is spread during the college years. And while most strains of HPV will resolve themselves, there are a handful of HPV strains that can result in certain types of cancers. Herpes cannot be cured and will persist in the infected person for the rest of their lives.
If these sobering statistics are enough to make students and parents take a closer look at the sexual health resources offered at universities, STDAware has done some research on how some of the major colleges, in the US, measure up to the increasing challenge of providing sexual health resources.
Sexual Health Service Report Cards by College/University
Universities can’t publicize their STD infection rates, but there have been some significant efforts to extrapolate STD rates in various University towns and create sexual health ranking system for colleges and universities based on sexual health services.
- Health center hours of operation
- Availability of patient drop-in vs. appointment only
- Availability of separate sexual awareness program
- Contraceptive availability and expense
- Condom availability and expense
- HIV testing, out of pocket expense to the student, and locality (on- vs. off-campus)
- Other STD/STI testing, out of pocket expense to the student, and location (on- vs. off-campus)
- Availability of anonymous advice via email/newspaper column
- The existence of lecture/outreach programs
- The presence of student peer groups
- Availability of sexual assault programs
- Website usability and functionality
An additional study was conducted in 2016 by The State Of Education and was built upon the CDC’s data of STD rates and the annual, campus sexual assault rates, plus the following six categories of sexual health resources:
- Contraceptive Availability
- Condom Availability
- STD Testing Options
- Sexual Assault Services and Resources
- Hours of Operation
- Web Content
STDAware has created Top 10 and Worst 10 “report cards” based on the information provided by these two separate studies and the current CDC reports of infection.
During the 2015-2016 academic year the rate of STD infection grew 3.8% from 313,415 students to 325,339 students (NAFSA). For many students, the enrichment of cultural experience through study abroad programs presents new opportunities and an expansion of both geographical and mental horizons. And, of course, the promise of a foreign romance can be just as alluring as the language and architecture of a faraway land. But the spread of STDs does not stop at US borders, and in some countries, the rate of STD infection is just as, if not more, alarming than those reported in America.
According to the CDC, an estimated one in five travelers say they had sex with a new partner while in a foreign country (CDC). So the act of sex while out of the country is less concerning than whether or not it was safe sex out of the country. In fact, some favorite tourist countries are so concerned with the increased rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections that they are urging travelers to bring their own condoms in case their own country doesn’t have a reliable supply, “…lest [traveling] romance could end up in a nightmare.”
In France and Holland, where chlamydia infection is credited with high rates of infertility, the health authorities have launched the campaign “A condom can save your life.” And in response to the statistic of 500 of every 100,000 Norwegian citizens being diagnosed with chlamydia over the past ten years, the well-known convenience store 7-11 has dubbed Norway “The Land Of Chlamydia.”
So if you’re thinking of packing your college student off for a non-American adventure, it’s worth considering the sexual “adventures” they might be exposed to and prepare them for the potential risks.
To assist with weighing the pro’s and cons of study abroad locations, STDAware has compiled the STD Rates in the Top Ten Study Abroad locations for American Students (UIS.Stat), below:
- United Kingdom – The total number of newly diagnosed STDs in 2015 was 434,456 (FPA.org)
- Canada – The total number of newly diagnosed STDs in 2015 was 116,499 (Global News)
- Grenada -In Latin America and the Caribbean, the total number of new HIV infections in 2016, was 115,000 (Avert.org)
- Germany – According to 2017 statistics 60% of the newly diagnosed HIV cases were transmitted amongst MSM (men who have sex with other men) (ECDC, 2017)
- France – Rates of STDs have more than tripled since 2012. Public Health France shows 76,918 people were infected with chlamydia in 2012, whereas 267,097 people were reported infected with chlamydia in 2016 (Social Post News).
- Australia -STDs are rising at an alarming rate in Australia. In just a decade gonorrhea cases more than doubled from 8,388 in 2006 to 18,588 in 2015, and chlamydia cases have increased by 43% (ABC News).
- New Zealand – One in three women and one in five men in New Zealand is infected with chlamydia by the age of 38(University of Otago).
- Israel – The current Israeli surveillance system is passive; therefore, the data is considered incomplete, but the results generated in 2014 concluded Chlamydia 11.3/100,00, Gonorrhea 3.2/100,000, and primary and secondary syphilis 2.3/100,000 (Israel Journal of Health Policy Research).
- Japan – Syphilis doubled from 2,697 in 2015 to 5,770 in 2017 (Japan Times).
- Dominican Republic – Various STIs are prevalent in the Dominican Republic, and 57,000 people in the DR are living with HIV/AIDS (Country Reports).
The Role of Alcohol
For many young people, going to college spells FREEDOM and access to many new opportunities for partying, drinking, and sexual activities. And while this type of exploration comes with the territory of growing up, failure to properly educate and emphasize the risks that come with new “adult” activities can result in life-altering consequences.
The element of alcohol, at any age, can be a significant factor in the lack of safe sex practices. Over 45% of college freshmen who have had sex while under influence of alcohol failed to use a condom with only 7% of the infected recognizing the infection in time to prevent it being spread to additional partners.
Aside from the STD risks of college alcohol use or abuse are the instances of “date rape” or “acquaintance rape” that occurs due to drunk & impaired judgment. Of the few cases that are taken to court 2 out of 5 males will be charged and convicted. Dropout rates in young women during their freshmen year due to drunk sex which led to an unplanned pregnancy is 5%. And 47% of driving fatalities of college-age people are attributed to alcohol.
Because it can’t be expected that college-age drinking will be eliminated, education and resources on sexual responsibility should be increased.
TRANSMISSION OF AN STD COULD RESULT IN A LAWSUIT
The Legalities of Sexual Responsibility
In addition to the need to increase sexual health education, awareness, and resources for young people is the need to expand and improve the knowledge and awareness of what the sexual responsibilities and consequences are. Beyond the risk of the spread of STDs is the risk of legal obligation when it comes to STD status.
Depending on the State in which you live, failure to disclose and transmission of an STD to an unknowing partner can be civil or criminal offense. These types of charges are contingent on the kind of STD and the nature of transmission but can result in fines, jail time, or sex offender registration. All of which will reduce any future opportunities in a young person’s life. Each of the U.S States has its own set of laws mandating the disclosure of HIV and other incurable STD conditions. To read more about the laws governing STD transmission, click here.
Beyond the heaviness of potential legal consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior, are the medical health and ethical obligations to ensure personal sexual health and the health of any sexual partners. While it is largely accepted that the college years are the time to “sew wild oats,” the act of sex (vaginal, anal, oral, mutual masturbation) should be approached with a degree of maturity and respect, even in the most casual of circumstances.
Having a mature and open conversation with any sexual partners about their sexual health is critical to ensuring personal health and quality of life. STDAware has several resources to assist with how to communicate about sexual health and how to request a sexual partner be tested for STDs.
- Click here to learn more about how to ask a sexual partner to get tested for STDs.
- Click here to learn more about how to tell someone you have an STD.
If you are concerned for your safety and fear that disclosing your STD status to someone could result in physical harm consider reaching out to the National Safety Hotline before having the conversation and getting advice: 1-800-799-SAFE or visit their website at http://www.thehotline.org/
STDAware also offers an optional, no-cost service, to any of their patient clientele, to anonymously inform previous sexual partners of an STD infection. Other service providers who offer anonymous STD notifications are:
- Don’t Spread It (email and text-based)
- InSPOT (e-card based)
- So They Can Know (email-based)
- Let Them Know (Australia, email and text-based)
STDAware keeps your information private and secure. Should you choose to use STDAware to anonymously notify any sexual partners of your STD status, we take extra precautions to ensure that your personal information remains private, secure, and confidential. To read more about how STD safeguards your personal and health information, click here.
If you or your college-age co-ed is ready to embark on the exciting journey that is college, remember that in addition to your textbooks, paper, pencils, and protractors you should be picking up some “protection.”
Male latex condoms, when used correctly, can provide 98% protection against STDs during oral, vaginal and anal sex, but are only an estimated 82% effective with typical use. Female condoms are 95% effective when used correctly, but only 79% effective with typical usage. Even though female condoms are highly effective, they are not as sufficient as male condoms at blocking diseases.
It might also be wise to take a crash course in condom use. A study by http://www.smartersex.org/ stated that while 87% of men (good job guys) know how to use a condom correctly and 70% of men (high five) believe that they should carry a condom at all times “just in case,” only 60% of women know how to use a condom correctly. To learn more about STD prevention and proper condom use click here.
Condoms come in a variety of colors, textures, and sizes. And while we know most college students don’t have a lot of money, condoms typically cost less than a small pizza, and many campuses and sexual health resource centers will provide free condoms.
Other STD prevention measures to consider are:
- STD Education: arming yourself with the right information about STDs and their risks can make the difference in making sound and mature decisions when it comes to bedroom behavior. STDAware offers no-cost online resources to assist in the education and awareness of STDs. To explore the STDAware no-cost resource center, click here.
- Get Vaccinated: one of the most common STDs, HPV, can now be prevented by a vaccine. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective and can aid in preventing most strains of HPV and HPV-related health problems like genital warts and certain types of cancers.
- Mutual STD Testing: requesting that you and any new sexual partners are screened for STDs at the same time will eliminate a large number of ongoing STD infections. STDAware offers simple, affordable, and convenient testing options. To learn more about STD testing at STDAware, click here.
- Quality Over Quantity: reducing the number of sexual partners you have in your life will greatly reduce the amount of exposure and risk you have to any STD. To learn more about the risks of STD transmission, click here.
- College Rules Aren’t Just For Your Paper: setting and committing to “rules” of sexual engagement for yourself can help you avoid a lot of questionable circumstances. Some standard rules to consider for self-application are, sex only when sober, sex only with condoms, agreeing to have sex only after STD testing has been performed, and sex with only one person in a time period. Hey, we don’t make the rules. You do! We’re just here to offer some friendly suggestions.
Earn Your Degree Not An STD
While the Filipino pride sorority Sigma Theta Delta might consider renaming their organization they are a great example of some of the great social, and academic opportunities that might be available at your university or college of choice. But, at risk of sounding too much like your parents: College is ultimately about education. STDAware supports higher education and your ability to earn a degree in something that will buoy you into your adult life and career.
Although the other “exciting” parts of college life can feel tricky to navigate at times, when it comes to your sexual health, STDAware is here for you.
With no-cost resource services and affordable testing solutions, STDAware provides the highest quality care and standards of testing. All testing services are private, safe, and confidential. No worrying about mom and dad finding out. No worrying about your information being shared.
STDAware advice counselors are available to speak with you about your sexual health concerns and are happy to assist you in finding the right testing solutions for your specific situation.
Most test results are returned within 1-2 days after testing is completed** so you spend less time worrying and more time…studying 😉 Additionally, STDAware offers no-cost medical consultations and treatment solutions*** for anyone who is tested by STDAware and tests positive for having an STD.
STOP WORRYING. GET TESTED.
* Proof of student status required to be eligible for 15% discount
**STDAware returns most test results within 1-2 days after testing is completed. If a patient tests positive for having an STD (with the exception of HSV-1, oral herpes), one of the in-house medical physicians will attempt to contact the patient by phone to discuss the results. If after three attempts, over the course of one week, the doctor cannot reach the patient over the phone, the results will be released electronically for viewing in the patient portal.
***STDAware is the only online STD testing provider to offer prescription treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HSV-2 at no additional cost to its patients.
You May Also Be Interested In Reading:
We’re here for you. STDAware is the ONLY STD testing provider that offers no-cost medical counseling and post-test consultations for any STD condition (with the exception of HSV-1) in addition to prescriptive solutions for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HSV-2. Other STD testing companies just send you the results leaving you to wonder “Now what?”
Your privacy is important to us and we take special and specific precautions to ensure that your information is protected and private. To learn more about how STDAware safeguards your information, click here.