The risk of STI’s at SMC: How to stop it

by Miranda Maiorino
Staff Writer

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have reached a “record high” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the people most infected are between the ages of 15 and 24.

That means the 1.7 million cases of chlamydia, 580,000 of gonorrhea, and 35,000 of syphilis reported in the last year have hit college campuses hard.

“Sex is everywhere on campus, and it’s not going to stop.” said Michael Richard ’21. The causes for such high risks on campus aren’t clear, however there are some common themes.

“More often on campus I hear about unsafe sex much more than I do safe sex,”said Richard, a gender studies major.

In the National Center of Health Statistics (NCHS)’s study on condom use in different age groups out of 9,321 men, condom use declines as men leave adolescence and enter their 20s. In fact, 53.5 percent ages 15 to19 consistently use condoms with every sexual engagement. However, that number lowers to 29.5 percent of men 20 to 24.

One reason that the use of condoms is so low, said Richard, is simply that people don’t want to ruin the moment. “There’s a certain spontaneity to sex that makes it where people think ‘Why stop if we don’t have a condom?’ and as a result you get more people testing positive for diseases.”

This isn’t the only reason college students are at a higher risk of contracting STIs. Some blame St. Michael’s College’s unwillingness to make contraceptives available on campus, which stem from Catholic traditions.

“As a whole, the point of view of the society of St. Edmund’s is in line with that of the wider Catholic Church which would essentially be in opposition to contraception due to the belief that human life must be respected in all of its stage.” said Father Michael Carter, campus minister and instructor of religious studies.

“Bergeron would be the best place to have it, but the school refuses. It could help out that one or two that want to practice safe sex,” said Richard.

There are still plenty of ways one can limit their risk of contracting STIs at college, said Mary Masson, Nurse Practitioner and Director of Bergeron Wellness Center. She cites that “abstinence and consistent use of condoms” as key ways to prevent transmitted diseases and infections.

“All the Nurse Practitioners here provide safe and confidential care, and we are proud of our students who take the time to take care of themselves,” Masson wrote in an email.

“We are here to provide information only, to perform physical exams and testing, or both. If [students] don’t prefer to have testing done here, we will happily refer them to an off campus provider in Burlington. There are many options!”