New Health Initiative Seeks to End Stigma of STIs

Summer Wigley talks about easing the stigma surrounding STI testing. Photo by Carlyle Addy.

Herpes. Chlamydia. Gonorrhea. HPV. These four sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are among the most common on college campuses.

Summer Wigley, a grad assistant at , is aiming to end the stigma that comes with STIs. Herpes infects 1 in 6 people in America, and there were 1.5 million new cases of chlamydia in the U.S. in 2016, said Wigley. Most people’s perceptions of STIs are negative: nasty, scary, dirty.

On Tuesday in the Tri Rotunda, Wigley gave a presentation unveiling the new “health initiative,” STIgma. The presentation covered positivity, sexual health, self-empowerment and STIs.

“I never want someone to feel alone,” said Wigley about people who have STIs. 

Summer Wigley talks about initiatives at Kent State to improve awareness and testing rates for STIs among college students. Photo by Carlyle Addy.

She wants to use STIgma to provide support for people who are suffering from STIs and to advocate for women’s health.

“Women experience STIs more frequently than men,” she said.

At the unveiling, Sex Week workers and Wigley handed out water-based lube, tampons and cotton candy. Wigley began the presentation by clapping to a beat until most of the audience began clapping with her. She then told the audience they were going to be talking about the clap, a slang term for chlamydia.

The main reasons a lot of college students don’t get tested, Wigley explained, is because they don’t have access to testing, because there’s a stigma surrounding STIs or because they don’t want their parents finding out.

Medical confidentiality laws, such as HIPAA, ensure privacy for individuals’ personal health information.

A student brainstorms ways to bring awareness to the importance of STI testing for college students. Photo by Carlyle Addy.

The truth about STIs is that nobody asks for them. It can happen the first time you have sex or the hundredth time. You can get STIs if you have only had one partner or if you’ve had many. Having an STI does not make you any less lovable and there’s a community of support, which students can now find at Kent’s campus through STIgma.

Stephanie Groeschen and Samantha Halcomb, juniors, came to the event mainly to learn, but also for the stickers people receive by attending Sex Week events. Halcomb said she learned about the prevalence of STIs on college campuses and Groeschen agreed.

Wigley presented information on STIs in a fun and upbeat way. She plans to use STIgma to bring the issue of STIs closer to home, to show it’s not something that only happens far away. The initiative seeks to end the stigma surrounding STIs, to educate people on them and to help people have healthier sex lives.

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