Not worried about STDs? Here’s a host of reasons why NU students should be concerned

This is the second part of a series of stories in The Guidon looking at issues around sex, love and the health risks of promiscuity on campus at Norwich University. See related stories: Norwich females weigh on on male attitudes on sex; Guidon stories rile up campus, Pres. Schneider backs right to publish

Every fall, a new term begins for many undergraduates at colleges around the U.S., and with that comes an influx of young men and women who find themselves together on one campus. As the stress of academics and work heat up, the students’ social lives do as well.

So too should concerns about sexually transmitted diseases and the often not-discussed issues around sex.

Sex in college is hardly a recent phenomenon, nor a taboo topic. It’s simply a part of reality, as noted in an article in USA Today, headlined “More College ‘Hookups,’ but more virgins, too” by Sharon Jayson.

Jayson’s article points out a new, generation-centric spin on the topic.

“Two-thirds of college students have been in a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship,” according to a study by the Wayne State University and Michigan State University, as republished by NBC News in the article “10 Surprising Sex Statistics”. The study notes the key factor in this statistic is “citing the lack of commitment required as the main advantage to such an arrangement.”

At the same time, studies recognize that college students are among those at highest risk for issues connected to sexual activity. In the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment Spring 2013 biannual study there are up-to-date statistics about undergraduate students in categories like “Mental Health” and “Sexual Behavior.”

“College students represent an important population for studying and understanding factors that influence sexual risk,” the study states.

However, college may not be the start of many young people’s sexual experience. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a 2011 study noted that, “47 percent of all high school students say they have had sex; and 15 percent of high school students have had sex with four or more partners during their lifetime.”

So, many youths come into college already having had a sexual experience of some form or another.

While these future college students have had sex, not all have used protection, making them susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) or pregnancy.

“Among students who had sex in the three months prior to the survey, 60 percent reported condom use and 23 percent reported birth control pill use during their last sexual encounter,” according to the CDC study.

High school and college-aged students from ages 15 to 24, combined “represent 25 percent of the sexually active population, but acquire half of all new STI’s, which amounts to 9.8 million new cases a year,” states the study.

Out of those 9.8 million cases of STI’s, 3.2 million “adolescent” women contract the human papilloma virus, otherwise know as HPV, according to the CDC study.

Adolescent men do not escape the statistics either. “Young males also get STI’s, but their infections often are undiagnosed and unreported because they are less likely to have symptoms or seek medical care.”

According to another article exploring undergraduate sexual health and behavior for the Journal of American College Health, 12 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur in the U.S. alone.

Out of that population, 3 million cases occur among teenagers.

These figures aren’t just alarming because of their impacts on student health and potential for inflicting longer-term damage and increased risk of other diseases. “High-risk sexual behaviors can result in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unintended pregnancies,” the study quotes. “(These) can compromise students’ academic success and may also result in life-altering consequences.”

In an attempt to lessen these numbers of infected students, sex education has become widespread across the nation in elementary, middle, and high school. Institutions like Future of Sex Education (FoSE), a credible website and organization, are dedicated to the standardization of sex education across the nation for students in grades kindergarten through 12.

The NCSL reported that, as of March 2013, “22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (20 of which mandate sex education and HIV education).” While this is less than half of the nation, 37 states allow parental involvement in sexual education.

Most students at Norwich are in the same age range that is addressed in the CDC’s statistics. Yet the message may not be getting across. In the Nov. 21 issue, “The Guidon” printed a story headlined, “Sex and Virginity at Norwich” by reporter Stacey Avnes.

The article stirred some controversy but also revealed “a great risk” to NU students according to Pres. Richard Schneider, as noted in the front-page story in this issue by reporter Cameo Lamb. “Just hooking up to hook up is not safe,” he said. “Especially, and this is the part that bothered me the most to learn, is how arrogant and stupid some of our students are to have unprotected sex.”

Norwich University itself has programs in place to teach students about sexual health, including sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex practices.

The Office of Health and Wellness, headed by Gail Mears, and the Counseling & Psychological Center, provide sex education and other resources to help students have a healthy lifestyle. The NU infirmary also offers testing services and protective devices as well as education and support regarding sexual activity.

While there was some criticism of Avnes’ article and controversy over its appropriateness within the student newspaper, the story clearly revealed the need for sexual health education, according to Schneider.

“I think we need to start talking about unprotected sex,” he said. “That is a great risk to my students and I worry about anything that puts them at risk.”

Sex in college is not an activity to be ignored, but one that needs to be addressed. The way in which students think about sexuality – and their level of education on the topic – has the potential to alter their lives drastically.

College is all about educating the youth of today for the future of tomorrow, and sex should be one of those topics, even if some people find the topic unpleasant.

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