News Staff Writer
Buttons and stickers with slogans such as “Students for Abortion Rights” line the table of Planned Parenthood Generation Action during an afternoon in Highsmith.
Students can find Peers Educating Peers and Advancing Health and the Health and Counseling Center elsewhere providing safe sex supplies to help spread awareness about reproductive rights and sexual health.
Jay Cutspec, director of the Health and Counseling Center, said the terms for sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections changed since the ‘80s when people referred to them as venereal diseases. Through the years, people changed it to STIs due to the stigma associated with calling it a disease. Though the terminology for STDs and STIs changed through the years, many use the terms interchangeably, Cutspec said.
“The greatest misconception is I think students believe all STIs are curable. So they don’t realize that in fact some of these they’re going to have for life. You would think with all the information available to students that they would understand that, but they really don’t,” Cutspec said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, viruses such as hepatitis, herpes, HPV, HIV and AIDS have no cure. Infections such as bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis may be cured with antibiotics. Although syphilis can be cured, previous damage from the infection might not be undone by an antibiotic.
The Health and Counseling Center commonly tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea, with the former occurring the most at UNC Asheville, Cutspec said.
In 2017, 599 total chlamydia and gonorrhea tests were administered at the Health and Counseling Center, Cutspec said.
Students can receive one free test for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV per semester at the Health and Counseling Center, but other testing will be administered for a fee. If students excessively schedule appointments for testing, a physician from the center will talk to them, Cutspec said.
“We don’t necessarily put a limit on it, but obviously if we have somebody that’s repeatedly coming in to get STI checks we have a conversation with them about their risky behavior and what they can do to reduce the incidence of it,” Cutspec said.
Through Peers Educating Peers and Advancing Health, students can learn how to promote healthy sexual behavior and practices. Shelby Stovall, an intern for PEPAH, said the organization makes information and supplies accessible to students.
“We give out safe sex supplies, which is a big thing that we do at almost all of our events,” Stovall said. “A lot of people may not feel comfortable coming to the Health and Counseling Center and getting those things and it’s easy to walk by a table and get it.”
Safe sex supplies from PEPAH include condoms and dental dams. The Health and Counseling Center supplies these same materials at their facility, in addition to providing an online request platform for supplies to be delivered to a mailbox in Highsmith Student Union.
Usage of a barrier such as a condom or dental dam lowers the risk of transmitting an STD through oral sex, according to the CDC.
“Students don’t think you can get STIs through oral sex, and so they don’t feel compelled to provide any protection against that,” Cutspec said.
PEPAH also hosts events aimed toward healthy sexual behavior. PEPAH’s event on March 29, “Can’t Touch This,” will focus on setting boundaries and consent, Stovall said.
“We’re giving people the tools to use for themselves and set their own boundaries and then communicate that to others,” Stovall said.
PEPAH members openly talk to students about sexual assault, Stovall said.
“My primary focus is sexual assault prevention and awareness and so we do a lot of events on making that known and making it not such a scary thing to talk about,” Stovall said. “I think going to a small campus we like to believe that it’s not as big of an issue or not a problem and it’s a huge issue.”
Although PEPAH interns work with the Health and Counseling Center, they do not handle confidential information. Only medical providers and counselors may receive such information about students.
According to Planned Parenthood, an aspect of sexual health involves practicing safe sex, getting tested and following through with treatment. The UNCA chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action also seeks to raise awareness about sexual health.
This organization aids the local Planned Parenthood and volunteers in the community, said Paul Ruback, freshman environmental studies student and president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action.
“Our organization is more so volunteer and community based, just as Planned Parenthood is,” Ruback said. “We do things from Canvassing for a Healthy Neighborhood, which is where we door knock and tell people of the services Planned Parenthood offers for little to no cost, which a lot of people surprisingly don’t even know Planned Parenthood isn’t just for abortions. It’s for basic health care.”
Some services provided by Planned Parenthood include birth control, general health care, patient education, STD treatment and testing and abortion services or referrals, according to their website.
The Health and Counseling Center also provides various forms of birth control to the UNCA student body, Cutspec said.
“We have a variety of different birth control pills. There’s probably eight or nine different varieties of oral contraception we have,” Cutspec said. “We also do the Nexplanon implants which are planted in a woman’s arm and I think it’s three years. We also used to do the Depo-Provera shots that some women use.”
The CDC advises the use of condoms and another form of birth control. While condoms protect against STDs, other methods might not.
Planned Parenthood Generation Action interacts with people in the greater Asheville area as well since the Health and Counseling Center is only accessible by UNCA students.
“We try to fundraise for them and host events for them. We try to generally just let people know of Planned Parenthood,” Ruback said.
Planned Parenthood Generation Action plans to fundraise with their Run for Reproductive Rights on April 21.
Planned Parenthood receives funds from public health care programs such as Medicaid and Title X and the federal funding is reimbursements from Medicaid and Title X. According to Planned Parenthood, politicians who want to defund Planned Parenthood mean to block patients on public health care from getting services at Planned Parenthood.
“The tax to cut funding or to eliminate funding altogether are always imminent, especially with the new (Trump) administration. I know that they face a lot of controversy and heat over that,” Ruback said. “So it’s always just like the fight for reproductive rights is never-ending.”