A greater number of students have been getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the Health Center in recent weeks. The influx of students occurred in the wake of an email sent out by Whitney Hogan, coordinator of health education, on March 7. The email reported an uptick in STIs on campus, including chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea.
"We saw this spike right before spring break," explained Sandra Hayes, director of Health Services. "It was short notice, but we wanted students to be aware that if they chose to be sexually active over the break, that there's a risk to that. Some students feel very complacent in the Bowdoin bubble—they think their risk is smaller and that's not true."
"We saw more students coming in to get tested after spring break, and then there was another increase after the op-ed went out," added Hayes, referring to an editorial published in the March 30 edition of the Orient. "I think there's an increased awareness."
Hayes was able to affirm that her staff has not seen any increase in the prevalence of STIs since they noticed the upswing in early March.
Due to student confidentiality rules, Hayes could not disclose the exact number of diagnosed STI cases on campus.
"We do report the cases to the state as required, but we don't keep a general log of numbers," she said.
Hayes described the gender divide of students making appointments as "equitable across the board."
"In the past, it's been more women than men that've come in because they have annual wellness exams, or they might come in more frequently for contraceptives," she explained. "But we're proud that now the students are coming forward no matter what their gender is and getting tested."
Hayes spoke about the process of making appointments, noting that the Health Center does not offer testing for walk-ins.
"Students can get appointments very easily. It's free, and we follow up with students very quickly with results. Although it would be easier if students could just walk in and get tested, we don't have the capacity for that walk-in STI testing."
The Health Center is currently planning more initiatives to encourage students to get tested.
"I'm working with Peer Health, ResLife, and my staff to look at improving our programs and testing times," said Hayes. "We want to use educational means such as making posters or creating a Facebook page to continue spreading the message."