Pamphlets on health care and first aid are available in the Health and Wellness Center in Johnson Hall. The center conducts free STI testing for students. (Alek Mosholt/B&W Staff)

National increase in STI rate not reflected at Lehigh

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Sexually transmitted infection reports in the United States have reached a record high. According to a recent STD Surveillance Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the U.S. have reached the highest number in history.

However, this surge in cases of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, is not reflected on Lehigh’s campus.

“While the absolute prevalence of STIs on campus is hard to predict, the Health and Wellness Center has not seen the rate of chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis spike on our campus,” wrote Thomas Novak, the interim director of student health services, in an email. “The prevalence of STIs on Lehigh’s campus tested through the Health and Wellness Center has remained constant for the past three years.”

Novak said there are many well-documented risk factors for acquiring STIs, including unprotected sex, multiple sex partners and alcohol and drug abuse. He said for those who choose to be sexually active, many of these risk factors can be drastically reduced with correct and consistent condom use, reducing the number of sexual partners, mutual monogamy, testing with all new sex partners and vaccination against HPV.

To combat STIs at Lehigh, the Health and Wellness Center provides evaluation, testing, counsel, education and treatment for STIs that are available on a daily basis. The Health and Wellness Center also has free condoms available for students.

Seeing the identification and treatment of infection as important in combating the spreading of STIs, the Health and Wellness Center also provides asymptomatic screening, targeted testing, pharmacologic and therapeutic treatment, and education efforts on safer sex practices for students.

Novak said the Health and Wellness Center offers year-round STI testing at a reduced price to Lehigh students through pairing with a variety of national laboratories. The center has also paired up with local hospitals and other organizations to provide free STI testing to students every February through partnerships.

The Health and Wellness Center partners with St. Luke’s Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital and the Bethlehem Health Bureau to offer free testing. In the past, it has also partnered with the Women’s Center, the Pride Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Health Advancement and Prevention Strategies Office.

Peter Costa, the director of Health Advancement & Prevention Strategies, wrote in an email his office and the peer health program are focused on prevention and have made several efforts to combat STIs at Lehigh.

Costa said in an email that Peer Health Advisers offer a signature program entitled ABCs of STDs, participate in observances such as World AIDS Day and conduct “condom dropoffs” at various locations and bathrooms across campus. He said Peer Health Advisers partner with other student groups, such as the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council and Break the Silence to relay their prevention messaging.

“Keeping track of STIs are an important part of sexual health,” said Paul Asadourian, the president of Peer Health Advisers. “For the most part they are easily preventable, but routine testing is one of the best ways to ensure that you are STI free.”

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