Applauding the fight against the clap, et al.

By Elizabeth McNamara

On Tuesday evening I attended an event sponsored by the Program Board (PB), BLAC, and supported by QU and FIA/ STARSA, to open a dialogue about the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) results which revealed that 1 in 4 women between the ages of 14 and 19 have an STI, and that for young black women that statistic is 1 in 2.These statistics, which grounded the dialogue, are startling, as is the fact that STIs and comprehensive testing are not the subject of more discussions on our campus. The point of this event was to discuss some ways Macalester can create safe spaces for addressing this issue.

First of all, I want to thank the organizations that put this event together, and especially thank Hillary Sorin ’10, who worked hard with the PB to sponsor the event. I also want to thank the diverse group of students who showed up. Many important issues were brought up during the small and large group discussions, and while not everyone agreed about everything (which is wonderful), consensus was found regarding a few key points.

In light of the statistics, the CDC has called for more extensive testing of women in the target age group, and many at the event agreed that Winton Health Services can go further to both promote and provide comprehensive STI testing for both women and men.

Safer Sex Week needs to provide more than fun, games and treasure hunts. Table tents in Café Mac should not just include clues to finding the Golden Condom, but need to educate students about the importance of getting tested, especially among women who often do not show symptoms of STIs like HPV and Chlamydia.

Many also agreed that during Safer Sex Week, if Winton cannot provide free STI testing itself, it should provide the resources students need to get comprehensive testing on their own. It is not enough to assume that as young people in college we are taking good care of ourselves and our partners.

Students who are not inclined to seek out testing need to be presented with opportunities to receive it close to “the bubble,” if not inside it. There was also a call for students to be encouraged to do independent research projects on local testing facilities and their prices.

Overall, there was agreement regarding the damaging image of Winton, especially as a normative space. Personally I have had good experiences with Winton, yet I think that Health Services at Macalester should consider their move to the MARC as an opportunity to be more culturally competent, and to revamp their approach to providing safe sex education.

I want to encourage anyone at the event, or who has been compelled by this letter, to also write in to The Mac Weekly, now or next year, to keep this dialogue open. I want to encourage the PB to continue hosting events that provide an opportunity for this community to talk about STIs and comprehensive testing. I want to encourage Winton to join in on this discussion more fully. And lastly I want to encourage everyone to be responsible, talk about these issues, talk to their partner(s), and get tested.

Elizabeth McNamara ’08 can be reached [email protected]