By Anne Marie Turner > Loyola University, Maryland
“Whenever you ask someone if they have been tested or if they want to be tested, the usual response is ‘Oh no, I am safe,’” said Nurse March. This sentiment is nothing new. Even in an era where information about sexually transmitted diseases is free for everyone, college students still are confident in their ignorance.
“I try to tell the kids that it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she continues. College students are not kids anymore, and it’s time for a wake-up call. They ask to be treated as adults, and therefore they must act like responsible adults. If you are sexually active, getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases is the most important thing you can do to be 100 percent sure you are safe.
According to the Center for Disease Control, by the age of 20, almost 75 percent of people have had sexual intercourse. College students and young adults in general are constantly surrounded by sex in movies, television and music. It is completely cliché, but Generation Y grew up with sex in their culture more prevalently around them than any other. Most people still remember the most awkward conversations of their youth… the “Sex Talk.” Your mom or dad sat you down and began the conversations with, “Well, now, sweetie when two people love each other very much…” Oh God, mom stop now!
Yes, this conversation has haunted you your entire life, but it also made you aware at a young age that talking about sex is important. No matter what anyone says, sex is a big deal. So why are people afraid to talk about it with the person they are doing it with?
“My boyfriend and I are safe, so I never thought to get tested,” Mary, a 21-year-old, said. “I know that we should, I’m not stupid. You just never want to think that you have something, you know?” This rings true with many people in their late teens and early twenties. Denial soothes the soul and calms the nerves. People believe that they will never be the statistic. No one wants to ask themselves, “Does my partner or I have an STD?”
Talking to your significant other about their past sexual relationships can be awkward and uncomfortable. Most conversations that matter make people nervous because the outcomes matter. “I talked to my girlfriend about her previous boyfriends, like three or four months into dating her. I didn’t want to know, but I had to know,” said Mark, a 20-year-old. “In my mind I was the only one she had ever been with.” Mark’s feelings and situations mirror that of many college-aged students. Fear of the unknown can discourage people from actually talking about past experiences. Talking about you sexual history can be uncomfortable and squirm worthy, but it is important.
Talking about your past histories is the first step that hopefully will lead to getting tested. Knowing your partner’s past is one thing, but you don’t know who their past partners have been with either. As smart adults, you cannot just take someone else’s word for truth. Do not just blindly accept what you think to be true.
Some of the statistics for sexually transmitted diseases in the United States are staggering. According to the American Social Health Association, 65 million people currently living in the United States have an STD, and more that 19 million new cases happen every year. Almost 63 percent of all STD cases occur among people younger than 25 years old. Most people can name six or seven STDs, but there are over 20 known today. Getting tested is not something that can be overlooked. Many STDs lay dormant. People think that if you have genital warts or herpes you don’t have it anymore if there isn’t an outbreak. Wrong.
If your knowledge of STDs is shaky, you are not alone. Even if people are unable to name every STD, you still want to be sure that you don’t have any of them. You and your partner shouldn’t be embarrassed about getting tested. Knowing that you are clean of STDs is the safest thing you can do for both you and your partner.
For information on how to get tested, contact your schools medical center or visit plannedparenthood.org.