Each week The Lantern speaks with experts at Ohio State for the latest in student health and wellness tips and news.
College is a time of exploration and experimentation for many. Rachelle Barr, HIV/STI testing site coordinator for the Office of Student Life Student Wellness Center, speaks to The Lantern about being safe while exploring sexuality.
Q: What’s the difference between an STD and an STI?
A: They are the same thing. The only difference is D stands for “disease” while I stands for “infection”. They do have different implications from a medical terminology perspective, but the two are interchangeable.
Q: What are some ways to prevent transmission of STIs?
A: The number one way to prevent STIs is by practicing abstinence. However, we understand that that is not a realistic method for many students and young adults. Therefore, we encourage all of the students we see to practice other methods of safe sex — most importantly, using protection while engaging in any sexual activity. Condoms are highly effective in reducing risk of transmission. However, it is important (for) people to understand that STIs can be transmitted even while wearing a condom, as not all skin surface is covered. We highly encourage open dialogue regarding sexual history, previous STI testing and just remaining open in general with your partner. Communication is essential in building healthy relationships and in maintaining sexual health.
Q: Where can students go if they are concerned they may have contracted an STI?
A: The Student Life Student Wellness Center offers free HIV/chlamydia/gonorrhea testing three days out of the week. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we test at the Multicultural Center in the Ohio Union from 5 to 9 p.m. On Thursdays, we test in the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Additionally, we offer free syphilis testing on the first Tuesday of every month at the MCC in the Union during the same hours as well. However, students can seek outside resources such as AIDS Resource Center and Columbus Public Health for more testing hours and options. Although many refer to STIs as catching something, there is a proper way of referring to it … it is better to refer to it as contracting an STI.
Q: How often should students (and people in general) have sexual health check-ups?
A: We recommend, based on (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines, that sexually active individuals (specifically women) are tested annually for both chlamydia and gonorrhea. Furthermore, it is recommended that all sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are tested at least annually for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Everyone at the university level should be tested at least once for HIV. More specifically, if you are not practicing safe sex, it is best to get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Q: If someone has an STD/STI, should they disclose it to partners? Does this play any role in consent?
A: It is definitely a person’s responsibility to share whether they have an STI to their partner. There are serious health consequences that can occur if someone is infected with an STI and does not know for an extended period of time. Many STIs do not have symptoms, so a person may never know until they get tested. I think consent and partner notification of STIs are separate things specifically, but they are very much related when it comes to protecting the health and safety of your partner.
For more information, visit the Student Wellness Center website.