In American culture, sex is everywhere. From the big screen and the TV screen to the music we listen to and the “dirty jokes” we share, the topic of sex has become a norm — especially for young adults. While sex has become more prominent in our culture, sex education and the promotion of sexual health have not, meaning that the positive side of sex is shown while the risks are often not.
One of these risks is unintended pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy is most common in women ages 18 to 24, according to a nationwide study by Guttmacher Institute. Of the women at risk for unintended pregnancy — women who are at a reproductive age, are fertile and are not trying to get pregnant — two-thirds use contraceptives consistently and account for only 5 percent of all unintended pregnancies. The women who do not use contraceptives, who make up only 16 percent of those women at risk for unintended pregnancy, account for 52 percent of all unintended pregnancies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s 2013 study in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, more than 110 million men and women in the United States have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which differs from a sexually transmitted disease in that STIs usually do not show symptoms and only have the potential for disease.
The study also found that there are 20 million new infections each year, half of which are found in young people ages 15 to 24.
While the term “STD” is known by nearly every college student, young people are not always entirely knowledgeable about the real health threats STDs pose. Some STDs can cause serious medical problems, such as cervical cancer and infertility.
According to the CDC study, treatments for STDs takes a monetary toll on our health care system, with a lifetime cost of $16 billion to treat 20 million new STDs a year. With the risks associated with unprotected sex, it’s a wonder why more young people are not actively taking more caution regarding their sex lives.
A study conducted in 2011 by Trojan Condoms on the sexual health of American colleges and universities ranked DePaul University in last place (141st), meaning that DePaul scored poorly in 11 different categories, including contraceptive and condom availability, STI testing, lecture/outreach programs and student peer groups groups for sexual health education. Loyola was not included on the list, but knowing that DePaul is similar to Loyola in both location and Catholic values, The PHOENIX conducted research in 2012 following the categories used by Trojan Condoms’ study that suggested Loyola would have ranked low as well.
With Valentine’s Day being right around the corner, it’s particularly important now for students to be proactive about their sex lives and know what resources are available to them.
While public universities provide contraceptives to students, Catholic universities such as Loyola do not because of their adherence to the Catholic Church teaching that the natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The FAQ page on Loyola’s Wellness Center website states, “In keeping with the Jesuit Catholic beliefs about family planning that are espoused by Loyola University Chicago, the Wellness Center does not provide oral contraceptives or other devices for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.”
Because contraceptive availability is a major determinant in the ranking of sexual health, many Catholic colleges ranked near the bottom of the list in Trojan Condoms’ latest report, the 2013 Sexual Health Report Card, including DePaul University, Boston College, Seton Hall University and Providence College.
While the PHOENIX Editorial Board respects Loyola’s Catholic traditions, the absence of contraceptive availability in a society in which, according to the “Report On Health And Habits Of College Students” by the University of Minnesota, more than 77 percent of college students are sexually active is only harmful to the student body.
Despite the fact that Loyola is a Jesuit Catholic university, students make their own decisions about engaging in sexual activity, like at all other colleges. This inevitability exemplifies the need for increased accessibility to contraceptives and education so students run less of a risk of contracting an infection or becoming pregnant.
While The PHOENIX Editorial Board is appreciative of the Wellness Center’s STI, HIV and pregnancy testing services, we firmly believe that prevention should be the number one priority. According to a study done by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 60 percent of students who received comprehensive sex education were less likely to engage in unprotected sex. When students are informed of the consequences of unprotected sex and have easy access to the means of protecting themselves, they are much less likely to put themselves at risk.
Because Loyola hasn’t implemented any changes in the areas of sexual health, The PHOENIX Editorial Board feels it is important to promote conversation about sexual health during this time. Students should know what resources are available to them, such as the Planned Parenthood on Broadway Street or the pharmacists at local drugstores. The more informed students are, the more careful they can be about their health and the health of others, and the more proactive they can be about ensuring that the number of unwanted consequences resulting from unprotected sex does not continue to grow.