Brock Student Health Services provided free screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for students, as well as pizza, in an eight-hour long event on campus.
This service is offered in partnership with Niagara Region Public Health. Health promoter for Niagara Region Public Health Sarah Burciul describes the service as an opportunity for students to develop the habit of regularly checking up on their sexual health.
“STI testing is very easy. There should not be a stigma associated with it,” said Burciul. “All you have to do is pee into a cup. There is nothing to be scared of.”
The tests will advise students if they have chlamydia or gonorrhea. Cases of both are rising in the Niagara region, especially among young people. Approximately half of chlamydia cases are found in people between the ages of 20 and 24. Expanding the age range, about 65 per cent of all chlamydia cases are found in people aged 15 to 24.
“There are a lot of people on campus in that age range, so that makes them probably the most at risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea,” said Burciul.
Burciul suggested this might be attributed to the lack of understanding. Many students are unaware that STIs can be asymptomatic, meaning the person shows no symptoms, and that regular testing is important even when people do not experience symptoms. As a particularly susceptible demographic, regular testing is advisable.
So how do we address the epidemic? Burciul offered advice for students, which is to practice safe sex above all else. Condoms are available for free from residence dons or at Student Health Services.
It might be easy to disregard the importance of condoms if you use other contraceptive methods such as the pill, nuvaring or an IUD, but these methods of preventing pregnancy do not protect individuals against the spread of STIs.
At the screening clinic, an emphasis was placed on increasing awareness of sexual health. The contributors offered information regarding prevention and treatment of STIs. There are gaps in sexual health knowledge on campus despite the fact that the transition into university may involve high-risk behaviours such as engaging in unprotected sex or new sexual experiences, which can lead to risky outcomes.
A point of contention these days in Ontario politics is the sexual education curriculum, which is the root of sexual health knowledge and understanding for many students. When asked about the implications the recent changes to the sexual education program might have on students, Burciul was optimistic.
“I really hope that people will remain aware of the curriculum that has been used the last couple of years. It includes more information of sexually transmitted infections and things like that, so hopefully that will continue for the next little while,” said Burciul.
One thing we can take from this service is the simplicity of being tested; all students have to do is provide a urine sample. In terms of attendance, 670 students were tested at this year’s event. However, 670 is still a small subsection of Brock’s much larger student population.
Students can also pursue STI testing through Student Health Services throughout the year. Students can also obtain free condoms at Student Health Services.