Understanding STDs: student resources for STD education and prevention

Jenna Bal, Reporter

One in every eight sexually active adolescents and young adults who are on their parents’ health plan refuse to pursue sexual health care because they are afraid their parents will find out according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Such is the case for sophomore music major Joshua Beacom, whose religious parents homeschooled him from kindergarten through high school.

“Sex was so far removed from the conversation. It wasn’t even a question,” Beacom said.

The lack of exposure to sexual topics in a healthy and informative way results in a population that does not know how to engage in safer sex practices. In 2018, more than half of new sexually transmitted infections were in people ages 15 to 24.

STDs, also known as sexually transmitted diseases, can be passed from person-to-person through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Certain risk factors, such as drinking, drug use and absence of a condom, increase the risk of transfer.

Rachel France, a counselor at Healing Strides Counseling Center in downtown Kent who specializes in familial relationships, named peer pressure, modeling behavior and rebelliousness as reasons for why these risk factors become present.

“If their family participates in those activities, they may want to be like the people they look up to,” France said. “They think it looks like it is what they should do.”

In addition, if young people are exposed to sexual situations for the first time in college, they may not know how to stay safe. STDs are typically not taken seriously among college students, Beacom said.

“It’s joked about a lot,” Beacom said. “It’s trivialized quite a deal.”

The CDC cites a few methods to prevent the spread of STDs: condom use, open disclosure with partners, vaccination against HPV and STD testing.

If young people do contract an STD, they may feel embarrassed to seek help due to the stigma surrounding it. This becomes even more true when they worry their parents may be judgmental and angry, said France.

One way to tell if parents would be receptive to the request for help is past experience, France said.

“If you know that you’ve had some deep conversations with your parents in the past about other things that may seem taboo within the family, but the parents are willing to discuss it, that’s a sign they may be open to it,” she said.

When parental guidance is not an option, other resources are available. For Kent State students, University Health Services offers STI screening. UHS Women’s Clinic also provides HIV testing.

For any young people in the Kent area, Townhall II, Planned Parenthood and AxessPointe Health Center provide testing and treatment for STDs.

Jenna Bal is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].