University Health Services is known to help students with a sore throat and a runny nose, but that help can also be extended to individuals with concerns about sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.
Kimberly Liao, a community health educator, said that UHS has a lot of resources for students in terms of sexual health.
“Students can get tested for many different STIs and can also be tested for HIV through a free and confidential blood test. Students can also meet before and after the [blood] test with a peer counselor about what they can do to make themselves safer in the future,” she said.
A common concern for students seeking to be tested for HIV is if anyone can find out about the results. The results are kept entirely separate from Penn State medical records.
“Parents do not have to know,” Liao said.
In general, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections on college campuses. The human papillomavirus and herpes are the more common viral infections, she said.
As for Penn State students, Molly Mullen (junior-film) said that to her knowledge, “everyone” she knows who is sexually active practices safe sex.”
When it comes to underclassmen, Kershley Charles (freshman-kinesiology) said that “freshmen are practicing safe sex, or at least I am.”
Dr. Anthony D’Augelli, an associate dean and professor of human development, said that people usually assume they know how to have safe sex.
“That’s not always true. Everybody is reluctant to talk about sex with a health professional because there are concerns about being judged by a physician,” D’Augelli said.
With UHS, students do not necessarily have to speak to a health professional.
“On the prevention side, UHS offer condoms, dental dams and lubricants in 201 Student Health Center whenever University Health Services is open,” Liao said.
No one is monitoring the basket filled with condoms. Students are welcome to grab a couple of condoms and leave.
“When it comes to safe sex, it is about making information accessible,” D’Augelli said.
For Penn State students, UHS goes beyond handing out free condoms.
“There is a program known as a safer sex party, which is a workshop that peer educators facilitate,” Liao said.
Such workshops are popular with fraternities and sororities as well as other student organizations.
“Any student can request this free workshop,” she said.
Along with the workshops, UHS also offers HealthWorks, a program where students are trained to become peer educators who can help answer questions about various health topics.
Liao said students are also encouraged to pick up free materials and speak with a peer educator every Wednesday in the HUB-Robeson Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. located on the ground floor information tables near the student bookstore.