Blouch: It’s time to get rid of the stigma surrounding STDs

Cat Blouch

Graphic illustration of four quadrants of the same graphic depicting abstract bodies being held by hands in pastel colors (pink, blue, green, orange, purple)
(Graphic Illustration by Rachel Macias | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Experimentation and even reckless behavior are common in college sex culture, and Colorado State University is no exception. In November 2020, I surveyed 482 CSU students and found trends indicating that the community is not engaging in safe sexual practices. 


Here are some of the trends I found:

  • The majority of respondents said they had not been tested for sexually transmitted diseases within the past six months.
  • About 43% of respondents say they never or almost never use a condom or dental dam.

Some people get wrapped up in the chaos of college and feel invincible, thinking they surely won’t get a sexually transmitted disease. However, they are mistaken. Anyone, no matter how many people they have slept with, can contract an STD. While it is imperative to mitigate the risk of spreading STDs by practicing safe habits, such as using protective barriers, these are not perfect solutions. You can still get an STD even when using a condom or dental dam.

The sexual habits consistent with the college culture increase the risk of contracting STDs, which is even more concerning given people from ages 15-24 make up half of all new STD cases. Roughly 1 of 4 college students have an STD or sexually transmitted infection, according to Biem. Despite their prevalence, there still seems to be harmful stigmas surrounding STDs and sexual health in general.

The narrative around these conditions is harmful, yet we know that many people are affected by them.”

At the heart of the toxic narrative is the lack of honest communication. Many are repulsed by STDs and associate people who have STDs as being “dirty.”

Some STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are completely curable through a dose of antibiotics. It is when we start discussing the incurable STDs that the narrative gets muddy. Human papillomavirus, HPV and genital herpes, HSV-2, are two of the three most common STDs among college-age students, and they are incurable. 

Both HPV and herpes, however, are treatable in some form. Students can take preventative action via the HPV vaccine and treat symptoms if they arise. Herpes, on the other hand, is treatable with antiviral drugs. Both diseases, especially HPV, can go completely undetected except for occasional flare-ups of genital warts. Protective barriers such as condoms and dental dams can help mitigate the spread during times in which the person is not experiencing flare-ups.

If you have contracted an STD, it is important to keep in mind that it does not define you.”

The narrative around these conditions is harmful, yet we know that many people are affected by them. Not having open and honest communication regarding STDs can lead many people to feel ashamed and not tell their partners about their STDs, thus leading to a greater spread. 

In order to destigmatize STDs and increase communication within the CSU community, the University should play its part. Free testing for STDs should be standard. Education on STDs should be mandatory and incorporated into the already existing education regarding sex during orientation and Ram Welcome. Free condoms and dental dams should be easily accessible for all students. Most importantly, the University should cultivate a consistent, healthy narrative around sex and STDs. 

If you have contracted an STD, it is important to keep in mind that it does not define you. Most STDs are either curable or treatable. Honest communication with sexual partners and practicing safe sexual habits are your biggest tools when wading through the waters of the college sex culture. 

If you are seeking additional resources, the CDC has more information on STDs, and Planned Parenthood has resources on how to talk to your sexual partner about testing and STDs. On-campus resources are also available to take control of your sexual health.


Cat Blouch can be reached at or on Twitter @BlouchCat.