The Cal Poly Lab works to understand students’ perceptions of sexually transmitted infections and what it means to be “clean”

Cal Poly students are studying student perceptions of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – exposing a lack of reproductive health awareness and knowledge on campus.

The Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Lab is a research lab focused on sexual and reproductive health issues that affect women, with the specific goal of working with women of color due to significant data that shows women of color are often underrepresented in this field of study. Their research projects may focus on sexual activity, sexual dysfunction, contraception, sexual health decisions, menstruation, and conception, according to the lab’s website.

The research project comes amid high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea on campus, according to lab founder Joni Roberts. Cal Poly has been considered a factor in the countywide increase in STIs in recent years.

Roberts is on Cal Poly’s Department of Kinesiology and Public Health as well as faculty-in-residence. Roberts helps students engage in sexual health research through the lab.

“What is their knowledge? How do they approach sex, especially given our high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea on campus? are questions this project seeks to answer, Roberts said.

The current project is a continuation of a project initiated last year by the SRH laboratory in collaboration with PULSE. PULSE is a collaborative part of Campus Health & Wellbeing that promotes healthy lifestyle management.

“Clean status” is a phenomenon surrounding what it means to be clean as it relates to STIs. Last year’s project found that both men and women, when asked about the tests, would respond that they would ask the question, “are you clean?” to their sexual partner.

“When [we] asked further, ‘Well, do you check that?’ most of the time people said ‘no’,” Roberts said.

The study found that people believe their partner is telling the truth about whether or not they are clean. However, a gender disparity emerged, according to Dr. Roberts.

“Women identifying people tended to say they were asking if someone was clean or not and also getting tested,” Roberts said. “Men who identify have asked, but have not been tested.”

Differing definitions of what it means to be “clean” can lead to confusion, misinformation and doubt about what is true when it comes to condom use and STIs.

The student team, including second-year public health student Gabriella Snow, is currently conducting one-on-one qualitative interviews with students.

“I kind of analyzed where they were getting this information from and it was super interesting,” Snow said. “There’s just a lot of misinformation and honestly just a general lack of awareness about a lot of these topics for various reasons.”

Snow said the project is important because it analyzes the roots of these ideas, where they come from, and determines how to use this information to best disseminate information that is well received and understood by the student population.

Other members of the SRH Lab include freshman public health student Anusha Sampath, junior bioscience student Alexa Asson, and sophomore public health student Kate Higashi.

To get involved in the STI “own status” interviews, register for an interview time slot. Students who participate in the project “will receive a bag of goodies on sexual health, as well as the opportunity to share their valuable insights and opinions,” according to an Instagram post from SRH.
Follow the Sexual and Reproductive Health Lab on their Instagram for more information and updates regarding the STI “clean status” project and other projects, or visit their Cal Poly website.

Comments are closed.