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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

V- Day not VD – Day

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and we all know what that means: anybody who had a date probably got laid. While sexually transmitted infections were probably the last thing you were thinking about during the heat of sexual passion, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to think about them before sex instead of wondering why it now hurts to pee?

Jessica Mesick, coordinator of the student-run Wellness Center encourages partners to discuss their sexual histories and safe sex practices before getting hot and heavy. She talks about the importance of demystifying the issue of sexually transmitted infections, or STI’s, and learning to accept them the way we accept other types of germs. “An STI is just a germ like any other germ,” she said. “There are consequences to any germ, and if people aren’t freaked out by STI’s, they might get tested and treated more … It’s fear and shame that makes [STI’s] as rampant as they are.”

Mesick talked about that fear and shame as being a part of our cultural attitude towards sex. “I think we can pretty much all agree that there’s a stigma attached to catching and having a sexually transmitted infection,” she said. “We have this overwhelming cultural belief that sex is bad, and anything that is sexually specific carries more shame or guilt or emotional load than anything that doesn’t have to do with sex. Hence, catching the exact same bacteria in your nose as in, say, your vagina, gives essentially the same infection, but [the latter] becomes this whole cultural issue of whether or not you’re fit to date.”

She also described our culturally “schizophrenic” attitude about sex; “We tend to fall back on the idea that any negative outcome from sex is just what you get from doing it. But then on the other hand, we have this fascination with things that we’re not supposed to do. I think that’s probably part of the whole cultural focus on sexuality in terms of marketing.”

If you choose to be sexually active, it’s important to be informed about sexual health and to engage in safe sexual practices. The student Wellness Center, located on the second floor of the Campus Center, provides information and gives out free supplies like condoms, lubricant, and gloves. “A huge part of our mission is giving away free health supplies and health information,” Jessica explained. “The more we can get those things into people’s hands and get them used to [health supplies], the more we can make [those supplies] not so weird and unusual.”

Anyone with questions about STI’s or sexual health in general can go to the Wellness Center for information or send an e-mail to [email protected].

But it never hurts to get tested, just to be sure. “Some people come in whenever they’re in a new relationship; some people come in annually regardless of their sexual contact; people come in all the time,” said Patricia Halon, Director of General Medicine at UMass University Health Services.

“Any student can come in for an episodic [walk-in] visit, regardless of their insurance. That’s a free visit, to walk-in.” Halon explained. Those with insurance other than the UMass Chickering plan need to provide their insurance card so that lab testing can be billed to their insurance company, but everyone can receive the same services and exams.

Students who test positive for an STI and don’t feel comfortable discussing those results with past or present partners can choose to have those partners contacted by a third party service. “Sometimes people are uncomfortable talking about sexual health and STI’s, even with someone they’re in a relationship with,” Halon said. “It’s still important for someone to know that they may have come in contact with something that could impact them and their health. So if you can’t do it, we’ll help you do it.”

Education is a big part of the school’s health service. “We try to make each step while we’re doing an exam be a learning experience; education is just a part of the exam process,” Halon explained. “[Testing] enhances our time for education and for teaching and for health education. We try to explain everything to everybody, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. People need to know about their bodies. You are your best advocate.”

For information about STI exams or other health related concerns, contact University Health Services at (617) 287-3977, or visit them in the Quinn Administration Building.