Survey shows sexual health appointments not a top priority

| Senior News Editor

Only 38 percent of the 1,426 undergraduates who took the Student Life Sex Survey have ever visited a medical professional for sexual health reasons.

Of the 62 percent of undergraduates who have not visited a medical professional for sexual health reasons, reasons were varied and often overlapped: 9 percent aren’t sure where to go, 11 percent think their parents wouldn’t approve, 8 percent think insurance is an issue, and 88 percent don’t think they need to.

Fifty percent of those who have had a sexual health medical visit make appointments annually, while 45 percent visit on a more irregular schedule. Gynecologists were the most popular source, with 55 percent of students making appointments with them, while 49 percent of respondents made appointments with Student Health Services, 27 percent with a general practitioner, and 9 percent with Planned Parenthood.

Of the 460 virgins who completed the survey, only 13 percent have made a sexual health appointment, and 91 percent of those who haven’t think they don’t need to go. To those students, Cheri LeBlanc, director for student health and wellness for SHS, says that it is still important for non-sexually active students to check in, especially women over the age of 21, who should have a pap smear to test for cervical cancer every 3 years.

“For students who are not sexually active, seeing a provider is also important to review immunizations that can prevent STI’s like Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B, or to discuss issues or questions students may have around sexual health, contraception, what’s normal, what’s not, etc.” LeBlanc said.

Ninety-six percent of those who have visited a medical professional for sexual health reasons have not had a sexually transmitted infection, but LeBlanc noted that not all STI’s have visible symptoms.

“It is important to have regular sexual health checkups to screen for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), as many STI’s do not cause symptoms. The frequency of the visits depends on how often students encounter new partners. Some students schedule an appointment every three months for routine screening, others less often. If you are practicing safer sex, you are protecting yourself from many STI’s and may need less frequent testing,” LeBlanc said.

For those who are concerned about parents finding out or about insurance, LeBlanc did note that insurance bills do tend to cause some strife, as not all companies cover STI testing (though the SHS insurance does), and, if they do, bills are delivered to whoever pays them.

“We let our patients know that their parents may get a notice from their insurance provider indicating that testing was done, which may, in turn, set up an awkward conversation for our patient,” LeBlanc said.

Women tend to be better about making sexual health appointments—about 51 percent did—while only about 17 percent of men have visited a medical professional for their sexual health. Of the 965 students who have had sex who filled out the survey, 50% have and 50% have not had a sexual health visit. LeBlanc, however, noted the importance of visits for both genders.

“We offer to do a routine genital exam, looking for any sores, lumps or bumps on the genital area and to screen for testicular cancer since this is the age group where it occurs. We walk them through how to do a testicular exam and recommend doing this monthly at home,” she said.