Spread Awareness - Not STDs
STDs are scary, and scarily common in South Carolina, so when asked by our professor, Dr. Ginny Webb, to choose an infectious disease to research in Spring 2020 (before COVID), we chose to focus on STDs But we didn’t stop with research. Our main purpose was to spread awareness to college students regarding the growing STD rates on college campuses while also educating the student population on local health clinics, such as the one here on campus, that are available for quick and easy screening. We had various plans in place including a booth with Student Life on our campus during STD Awareness Week, an STD seminar with guests, and a movie night to raise funds for Piedmont Care, a local STD clinic in the Upstate area. We also reached out to and met with Mary Bucher, the Director of Health Services at Upstate, to plan a free screening day during this week where students could confidentially go to get checked and screened at the Student Health Center.
All our carefully laid plans were abruptly canceled in the wake of COVID-19, but we quickly transitioned our outreach online and spread our message to the younger generation online through social media. We worked with Bridget Kirkland, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, and advisor for The Studio, a student-run graphic design agency on campus, to create a pamphlet we distributed to students through various social media pages on campus. We also arranged for hard copies of the pamphlets to be provided in lobbies of various local free health clinics in the area. Finally, we started a GoFundMe page to raise awareness of STDs and raise funds for the Piedmont Care clinic. As COVID-19 is particularly harmful to immunocompromised people, such as those with STDs, raising awareness is even more important now than when we began.
Overall, despite bumps in the road, the service learning element in our course enabled us to reach out to our campus community and become more involved. It truly is a feeling like no other when you get to work with leaders and faculty on campus towards a common goal with shared passion. We strongly encourage students consider Dr. Webb's course as not only as a way to learn about microbiology, but to also become aware of growing issues in our community as you work to confront those issues.
Read a related story about microbiology service students introducing kindergarten students to germs and handwashing.
View the STD prevalance pamphlet here.
A student reading the pamphlet in the clinic office
STD Prevalence pamphlet in rack (top, center)