The front page article in The Houstonian on Wednesday September 21 brought an important topic to the forefront of conversations happening on campus, in local and statewide public media as well as social media outlets. What seemed to catch the attention of most readers was the headline; which was alarming to the SHSU community and beyond. This painted an inaccurate picture of both an important health issue as well as the intent and the content presented in the body of the article.
Sexual health is a key health issue on college campuses. Out of the 20 million cases of STI’s confirmed every year in the US, half of them are among people between the ages of 15-24 encompassing the traditional college student. Furthermore, the number of new cases each year in America is growing which has created concern in the medical community. The word “outbreak” is an incorrect way to describe the current STI status in our community. This is certainly a health issue that we actively encourage and promote strong awareness of and that should be brought to our student’s attention in an educational and supportive approach.
The publicity generated by the article has shed light on the broad implications of sex, STI’s and unplanned pregnancy. When we look beyond the pure health issues associated with this; other topics such as stigma and value judgments can also emerge. When reporting on a population level; broad assumptions and labeling can be placed on an entire community.
A certain benefit of the article is that it has sparked important conversation. To many, talking about sex and associated risks is uncomfortable. Despite how difficult it may be, avoiding the topic can lead to more STI’s and unplanned pregnancies which are the very issues we want to address and prevent.
At SHSU, we pride ourselves on preparing students for personal and professional success after college. Those that work here take that very seriously. We know that health concerns and stress surrounding these issues can impact our students both academically and socially. We are very proud of the facility and services that we are able to provide at the Student Health and Counseling Center along with our Office of Health Promotions that can impact your overall success as an SHSU student.
We also believe that preparing you for lifelong success entails showing you how to be proactive in maintaining and improving your health. We live in a climate where this is increasingly important. Our goal is to provide education beyond just your core curriculum and major requirements and instill healthy habits in your college years and beyond. To work towards that, we strive to remove barriers such as the potential financial burden of practicing recommended health habits through our programming and outreach activities. This past week we partnered with the Department of State Health to provide free HIV and Syphilis testing. This event was attended by approximately 100 students who were also offered additional free follow up testing on our health center for chlamydia and gonorrhea. This allowed us to focus on our message of students knowing the importance of getting tested and knowing your status. The Office of Health Promotions also provides many other educational and outreach programs throughout the semester also designed to instill healthy lifelong habits such as iDrive, which is an effort to prevent drunk driving by providing a support system of peers as designated drivers.
Our hope is that when you picked up the September 21 edition of The Houstonian you took the time to read past the headline and into the valuable content it pertained to. Remember the importance of knowing your health risks, being proactive and ensuring your overall wellbeing to be a successful SHSU student!