By PARKER BROCK
With STD rates in the United States rising to an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to stay safe in the sex.
Pima Community College is not only a great learning environment but a social one as well. Students in more intimate classroom settings are more likely to develop relationships with fellow students, gaining friends and potentially dating partners.
Though college-age students are mature enough to make the decision to have sex with consenting peers, the threat of potential exposure to STDs and unplanned pregnancies is often overlooked.
Diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia have an active presence in the Tucson community.
In 2017, BackroundChecks.org ranked Arizona 19th in the nation for STD rates. There were 151 cases of gonorrhea and 511 cases of chlamydia for every 100,000 people.
That could potentially mean about 750 cases of gonorrhea and 2,500 cases of chlamydia among the 530,706 Tucson citizens.
Pima’s student population is 43,129 for the 2017-2018 academic year should be wary of the potential 7.4 percent of their peers who potentially have an STD.
The best way to reduce exposure without forgoing sexual activities is to use protection. However, Pima students may not have the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about protecting themselves.
For students coming from Arizona schools, our state ranks as the third worst in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2016 school health profile in sex education.
Part of that is because Arizona law does not require schools to teach sex education or STD/HIV education, according to Arizona Administrative Code.
This leaves many students without the information needed to make safe sex decisions.
Some of the crucial information missing in the curriculum includes basic communication skills and understanding of consent; where to obtain condoms; or how HIV and STDs are transmitted, according to Arizona Administrative Code R7-2-303.
“Pima should be taking note on the rise of STDs in younger generations, and should be making steps to better educate youth on the myths that surround sex as well as STDs,” said Pima student Hope Thompson by email. “For what Pima can actually do is that I think it might incentivize a lot of students is if there was a sex ed seminar or class.”
A large amount of the information students have received comes from abstinence-only education, which has been proven to be ineffective at delaying or preventing sexual activity, according to Advocates for Youth, a non profit organization dedicated to sexuality education, the prevention of HIV and of sexually transmitted diseases.
Many students end up with inaccurate information, such as the myth that contraception is unreliable and ineffective at preventing pregnancy or STDs. A 1994 study done by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that out of 124 couples — one with HIV, one without — who used condoms properly when having sex, saw that there was no HIV transmission to the uninfected partner.
A National Institutes of Health laboratory study review also showed that condoms also offer protection against chlamydia and gonorrhea.
“I think a lot of people could benefit from sex education offered at (PCC), but it’s also tough to find a balance between educating everyone without impeding heavily on their time and making sure they are educated candidly about sex,” said Jannette Emmerick by email.
“What I’d like to see is PCC implementing a seminar program aimed to effectively educate students in an engaging way, possibly hosted several times a year so students are able to attend according to their schedules,” she said.
With correct condom use, people can significantly reduce their chances of catching HPV.
CDC study, “Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2006” states when used correctly and consistently, condoms can help prevent the spread of HPV and can reduce the risk of HPV-associated diseases, such as cervical cancer and genital warts. Keep in mind that HPV spreads via skin on skin contact, so areas not protected by a condom are at risk, but there are female preventatives like vaginal mesh that do cover more surface area.
Arizona also fails to educate members of the LGBTQ community. According to Arizona Revised Statutes Title 15. Education §§ 15-716(C)(1)–(3) schools cannot promote a “homosexual lifestyle,” portray “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle,” or “suggest that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”
When asked, Pima students gave what they think PCC could provide in services to help students get the information they need. Not all students think PCC should instate new sex ed classes, however.
“I’d take a Locke’s approach to it and say that the state is involved enough in our lives,” Shane Gardiner said by email. “Good information should be made available but not mandatory to adults.”
“Sexual education in curriculum should be at the grade school level, college is likely too late. We should breed a sense of personal responsibility and not the idea that it’s Pima’s or any other state-funded agencies defacto responsibility to take care of you.”
As it stands getting proper information in regards to sex education is heavily reliant on parental guidance and self research.
For many condoms are not even apart of the sex equation, discarding the risk for pregnancies and STDs for a “more pleasurable experience” without a condom.
My own sex education before college was minimal, aside from the effect puberty would have on myself and my classmates, my own knowledge consisted of false information from friends.
Only after a few dangerous encounters did I research how to best stay protected. My advice is do your own research and always use protection.
While opinions vary of whether PCC should take an active role in students sex education, the importance of getting informed remains unchanged.
For more information of how to protect yourself and reduce your chances of catching an STD or having an unwanted pregnancy, go to www.plannedparenthood.org/ to find the best way to protect yourself.