Sexually transmitted infections are a pressing health concern on college campuses, but not a topic many are eager to discuss. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an overall rise in the number of STI cases nationwide, especially among individuals aged 15-24.
On March 29, Boston University’s Her Campus and PERIOD., hosted “STIs and Smoothies,” an open discussion with medical professionals, at BU’s College of General Studies.
The evening began with a presentation from Dr. Amanda French, a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Erica Thibeault, a surgical physician’s assistant at BCH’s Department of Gynecology, about different types of STIs and protective measures.
“[Condoms] are the most effective way of preventing transmission of sexually transmitted diseases,” French said, kicking off their presentation.
Thibeault encouraged attendees to always carry protection, rather than relying on their partners.
“As women, you should take responsibility to make sure you have condoms yourself and not rely on just your male partners to have them,” Thibeault said. “You could have more responsibility to make sure they’re not expired, they’re stored appropriately, that they’re not sitting in some guy’s wallet for, like, years.”
French and Thibeault discussed a number of diseases, but especially cautioned attendees about Chlamydia, which Thibeault said is particularly common in young women.
“Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States,” she said. “[It’s] often asymptomatic, which means people don’t have any problems … It’s very common in younger people [and] two to three times more common women who are under 20.”
Following the presentation, the panelists fielded questions from audience members. After the question and answer session concluded, students made their way to the back of the room, where a table was set up with smoothies and an assortment of free condoms and menstrual products.
Geneve Lau, recruitment director intern for Her Campus BU and a freshman in the College of Communication, said their event was geared toward educating students who may not have received comprehensive health education about sexual health.
“[STIs & Smoothies] is an event where [Her Campus] is partnering with other female empowerment organizations on campus [as] a really great way for girls to learn about what the dangers are of STIs,” Lau said. “We feel like there is a common trend in health classes in high school where a lot of people don’t know what STD/STI’s symptoms are.”
“It’s got a ring to it,” said Samira Saran, president of BU’s PERIOD. chapter and a freshman in the College of General Studies. “Smoothies are great. Everyone loves smoothies. I didn’t have any input behind the name, but personally I think smoothies draw me in. Anywhere I hear ‘smoothie’ I’m in it to win it.”
For Saran, the event was another opportunity to raise on-campus awareness about PERIOD.
“PERIOD. is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide menstrual health products to underprivileged women and just generally provide education, service and just general advocacy over a women’s menstrual cycle and kind of destigmatize the topic in general in society,” she said.
Celeste Lim, a sophomore in CGS, said she found the presentation interesting and helpful.
“I learned so much that I wasn’t able to learn in my high school health classes, even just like all the different illnesses and infectious diseases,” Lim said. “We also got to ask a lot of questions, where [French and Thibeault] were able to debunk a lot of myths that kinda have been going around our whole lives.”
Prior to “STIs & Smoothies,” French said, she’s never given a presentation for college students before, but thought it would be fun.
“We are happy to be here,” French said. “And of course, we want to encourage people to talk [about these topics] because we think that making sure kids are educated in very helpful in giving them the ability to make proper choices.”