Sexually transmitted infections in college students: Management of diagnostic testing and follow-up in the SUNY system
Haggerty, Melinda Z.
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Sexually transmitted infections are a serious health concern in the United States. In addition to the need for prevention and education, there is a need to support those who have already been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections. Sexually active adolescents and young adults are at higher risk for acquiring sexually transmitted infections than sexually active older adults for a number of reasons. The research reviewed in this study shows that there is a strong social stigma attached to sexually transmitted infections. There are a number of negative outcomes associated with this stigma, including the stress and anxiety felt by those with sexually transmitted infections. College Health Centers have the potential to decrease the transmission of sexually transmitted infections among a high risk group of the population. They also have the potential to link people who receive a positive diagnosis to counseling which may alleviate any negative psychological factors associated with such a diagnosis. This study examined the resources currently available to students at State University of New York (SUNY) Health Centers regarding sexual health. Specifically, it explored the following three questions: (1) What sexually transmitted infection resources are available to students on campus in terms of testing, and treatment? (2) How are students notified of their positive sexually transmitted infection testing results? (3) Is mental health counseling recommended to students who test positive for sexually transmitted infections? The results show a great deal of variability in terms of what STI resources are available to students from campus to campus within the SUNY system. The range of health office staff members at a given campus was 0 to 20. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV were available on campus for students at half of the participating schools. STI testing was not available at 10 of the participating schools and STI treatment was not available at 14 of the participating schools. There was a significant relationship between the type of school and availability of testing and/or treatment, with community colleges less likely to have these services available on campus for students. The factor most often considered when deciding whether or not to make a recommendation for mental health counseling was the student's reaction to a positive STI diagnosis. Other factors which influenced these decisions were the type of STI the student had and the student's level of interest in mental health counseling. These results point to implications for practice and to areas for future research.