Rise of Sexual Transmitted Diseases in College Students: A Health Behavior Problem

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Widely known, “sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The causes of STDs can be in the form of bacteria, parasites, yeast, and viruses.” (Medline plus, 2019). Although, some STDs are fairly easy to get rid of with the use of antibiotics, others will live in the body forever after they come in contact with the disease and the use of medication, such as antivirals are used to lessen the symptoms. “Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) are known to have been around for decades and is even known to be stated in the Old Testament. In the ancient and medieval times is was taken as an individual punishment for a persons low sanitation and hygiene. This perception quickly changed from personal fate to an important health issue.” (Burg G., 2012).

“As of 2017 statistics show that young people age fifteen to twenty-four years of age acquire half of all new STD’s and that one in four sexually active adolescent females have an STD, such as chlamydia or HPV.” (CDC, 2016). These higher chances of STDs may also reflect that these young adults are not receiving the education they need to protect themselves, or they want to avoid the embarrassment attached to seeking STD services, especially due to the specimen collection, and also many students do not want to partake in getting tested yearly.

“In a survey distributed to physicians it was noted that patients under the age of 18 were the least informed on the subject of sexually transmitted diseases yet continued to have sex despite the lack of knowledge.” (Stoskopf, 1999). “Among sexually active college students, 50% of them do not wear condoms during sexual intercourse.” (Steinmetz, 2013). This actively supports the reasoning behind why STDs among these young adults is on the rise. They do not understand the consequences of not practicing safe sex. These college aged students lack the motivation to continue learning about safe sex practices and new information on STDs after they leave High School. Students that only effectively learn about STD transmission in high school are more likely to not practice safe sex and may obtain a disease after they graduate.

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Laura Lindberg, a research scientist stated “Today’s college students are part of a generation whose sex education that they received prior to college has been very weak. Many of them did not receive comprehensive sex education. They did not receive instruction and information about birth control. Instead, what they got was some of an 'abstinence until marriage program' which left out key information about using condoms and contraception to protect themselves. So today’s college students need information. They need medically accurate information. They need honest information. And they need more information.' (Voa, 2016). Lindberg explains, “There is a problem within the college community and many young people do not think about the consequences of unprotected sex.” (Voa, 2016). She says, “These students are embarrassed about discussing sexual health, because these students are so worried that if they get tested their parents will learn they are sexually active.” (Voa, 2016). Today, STDs are not normal for parents to warn their children about. Parents tend to shy away from teaching their children ‘safe sex’ since they want them to remain innocent and pure. Many parents do not want to know what their children are becoming involved with in their personal lives.

In 2016, it is known that less than 12 percent of all college aged students were tested for a sexually transmitted infection or disease. Which explains why there is a rise in STD infections and diseases. Many STDs do go asymptomatic which is why students do not feel the need to go get tested. In 2017, the Cal State Fullerton student health center reported 81 percent of students who were tested for STDs were also positive for either syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, only slightly more than 17 percent of the school’s students were tested. This decline in STD testing is over looked and needs to be taken seriously, so society can slow down the growth of diseases within the college community.

STDs should not be taken as taboo to talk about in everyday life. These diseases are a normal part of life and have the potential to affect anyone who is sexually active, which makes it even more important to keep having these everyday conversations about how to avoid them and as a group we all need to destroy the stigma of how these STDs are viewed in the society. Anyone is capable of obtaining them and being infected. Society needs to just have more talks and spread the word about safe sex and getting tested regularly.

A few interventions that would be used for this health behavior problem, would include proactively speaking about the STDs within the community and making it a point to excessively speak about and inform all high school and college aged students about what occurs. Sex education needs to be a priority in high school and college, especially since STDs are on the rise within the community. Also, we need to proactively be explaining why testing should be getting done yearly. Instead of it seeming frightening it should be considered as a very educational moment in their life. A way society could change the perspective on getting testing yearly for STDs would be to pass out brochures on how STDs can affect ones life and how fill it with so much information on how an STD can ruin someone’s life if it goes undiagnosed. Statistics do show cold hard truth and that would be very effective in brochure for this cause.

This health behavior falls into the theory of the Health Belief Model, because it contains the four parts which is perceived seriousness, perceived susceptibility, perceived benefits, and perceived barriers. Perceived benefits its plays a very important role in the prevention portion of this health behavior. In order to get these students to partake in proactively getting tested or speaking out about their curiousness on the topic society needs to show they that they will receive some greater good for following through. Perceived barriers also plays a large role, because it helps with determining the behavior change. In order for this theory to fully work, these students need to view their modifying variables, their cues to action and their own self efficacy.

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