While Hoyas may not want to think about sexually transmitted diseases around Valentine’s Day, they’re a growing concern on college campuses nationwide — even within the front gates.
One in four individuals will acquire an STD in his or her life in Washington, D.C., according to the District’s Sexually Transmitted Infections Community Coalition. For young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, chlamydia, human papillomavirus and herpes are among the most common.
“Our campus is the size of a small city. In any group of 7,000 people, there’s bound to be a few with STDs,” Rosie Bichell (SFS ’15), a member of H*yas for Choice, said.
Carol Day, the director of Health Education Services at Georgetown, said that STDs are hard to track on a campus like Georgetown.
“I know there are some [cases of sexually transmitted diseases] … but not everyone who has one comes to Health Education Services, and not everyone who has one answers our biannual survey,” Day said.
According to Laura Kovach, director of the Women’s Center at Georgetown, two to three cases are reported every year on campus. Aside from reports used internally by Health Education Services, there are no official statistics on the actual rate of STDs at Georgetown.
Student Health Center offers various tests for students. The office webpage lists STDs as one of the reasons students come in for routine office visits.
But because of the Hilltop’s small community feel, some students assume that they are immune from the risks of unprotected sex. On top of that, the subject is hardly a topic of serious discussion on campus.
“I don’t worry at all about [sexually transmitted diseases],” Matt, a student whose name has been changed, said. “None of my friends have STDs, but I also haven’t asked.”
Christina, a student whose name has been changed, said that she was told by a health services administrator that the infection rate of certain STDs is rising on campus.
“I once went to get tested for mono at the Student Health Center, and the lady in the testing room was doing chlamydia and gonorrhea tests, and she turns to me and says: ‘We have gotten 20 of these this week. A lot of people are sleeping without condoms — watch out.’”
Many students express concern for the lack of dialogue regarding STDs.
“I think [STDs are] something a lot of students are aware of but many don’t think about. They think Georgetown is safe, but [STDs] are a lot more common than people think,” Haylie Jacobson (COL ’15), vice president of H*yas for Choice, said. The student group, which is not recognized by the university, tables in Red Square most days, providing students with free condoms.
“People don’t talk about them because they’re embarrassed, but it needs to be talked about,” Jacobson said. “There’s something to be said for taking away the negative stigma around [STDs] just by making them part of the conversation.”
Day also sees the lack of dialogue regarding STDs as a roadblock for future student health. “There’s a misconception that we can’t talk about STDs, but that’s not true — we have phone lines available, and students can text in their questions.”
“The services are there — you just have to work through the misperception that they’re not,” Day said.
As with any infection, testing and treatment can’t be ignored, Kovach said.
“Many students tell their peers first if they are dealing with a health issue, and so it’s important for friends to know about resources so they can encourage their classmate, roommate or teammate to seek help,” she said.