Kent State offers methods to combat all-time high STD rates

Anna Smith

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) rates have reached an all-time high in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2017, there were about 2.3 million reported cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, about 200,000 more cases than documented in 2016, according to the CDC.

“15-to-24-year-olds account for half of all new STDs each year for the CDC,” said Sierra Baker, the health educator for University Health Services.

Due to privacy reasons, Kent State is not allowed to disclose student STD rates to the public. To combat these increasing rates, the university offers several methods of prevention and treatment.

Jennifer D’Abreau, a senior university physician for University Health Services, stresses students take advantage of preventative methods, including HPV and Hepatitis A and B immunizations offered at University Health Services, as well as condoms.

D’Abreau also brought up the importance of communication when in a sexual relationship.

“The conversation can include things like which person will use the condom, previous sexual history, any symptoms they might have at that time,” D’Abreau said. “I always encourage testing before intimacy because many sexually transmitted infections don’t have any symptoms at all (like) discharge, itching and pain. Many are asymptomatic, and you can be infectious and passing it to another person without even knowing it. The only way you know you don’t have an infection is to be tested.”

STD treatment depends on the diagnosis. D’Abreau said. The Health Center can treat certain STDs with antibiotics or refer patients to a specialist for further evaluation.

Tests offered at the Health Center include pap tests for HPV, gonorrhea and chlamydia; vaginal tests; urine tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia; and blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis A, B and C and syphilis.

Studies have shown most students do not receive extensive sexual education in high schools as most high schools’ curriculums focus on abstinence and the repercussions of heterosexual sexual activity.

“Sexual health seems to be requested the most,” Baker said. “I find with a lot of the contraception programs that I do, students don’t know what I’m talking about. They’ve never heard of a sponge or a diaphragm or even an IUD. Sometimes I’m surprised a little bit by what students don’t know as far as all the options for contraception.”

Baker encourages students to learn about sexual health through university events and research.

“(The Office of Health Promotion) has a lot of information regarding different STDs and prevention and treatment, so we have brochures in our office students can get,” Baker said.  “We have brochures on specific STDs, on how to talk to your partner if you have an STD, on how to talk about if you should get tested together.”

University Health Services offers confidential and free HIV and Hepatitis C testing on campus throughout the year provided by the Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI). The offered dates for the fall semester can be found on University Health Services’ website.

Free condom dispensers advocated for by the LGBTQ Student Center were recently added to three restrooms in the Student Center, said Ken Ditlevson, the director of the LGBTQ Student Center.

“We get our condoms for free from CANAPI (and the dispensers) hold 750 condoms each,” Ditlevson said. “We filled them for three days, and then every day, they would be completely emptied. Now, CANAPI won’t give us anymore condoms, so we’re in a kind of crisis now that we don’t know what to do. We’re working to try to figure out how to supply those. Obviously there’s a demand, and students want the condoms and are using them, hopefully.”

Ditlevson fears that due to societal views of these diseases, students with STDs are not looking for emotional help.  

“I’ll say that that’s probably a more delicate subject and, for the most part, has not been openly shared by folks,” Ditlevson said. “There’s so much stigma, and so people probably keep those things confidential for fear of being judged.”

There are many places people can get tested for STDs in the local area, including Planned Parenthood, located in downtown Kent.

Anna Smith is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected].