Beware of friends bearing gifts.

Danielle Schenone, a senior biology major, talks to a freshman class about sexually transmitted infections . photo by taken Kristin Sotak

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.–St. Bonaventure University freshmen fill the room for their University 101 class, a first semester course to transition students from high school to college life. On the white projector screen blanketing the blackboard, a YouTube video plays.

She sits with her ponytail high atop her head. Her anonymous silhouette tells her story to the class.

During her year-long relationship with her boyfriend in high school, the topic of having sex came up in conversation. While she would not be his first, he would be hers.

Avoiding the awkwardness of asking her boyfriend if he had gotten tested for sexually transmitted infections, she made the worst decision of her life. She trusted him.

And they had sex without a condom. She thought she had nothing to worry about.

For the next few months, the couple continued their intimacies. The girl menstruated regularly and without pain. The guy experienced no pain either, similar to after he had sex with any of the previous girls.

However, symptoms the girl had never experienced began. Entering her freshman year of college at St. Bonaventure, she says she had pain in her lower abdomen and bled during sexual encounters.

She went to her physician, expecting to get some medication to solve the problems.

Instead, her test results revealed she had cervical cancer. A freshman in college with cervical cancer. Cancer.

Three fictional monologues, including this one, based on the typical symptoms of certain sexually transmitted infections, humanized a typical PowerPoint for the freshmen.

Ten pre-health students prepared the 20-minute presentation on sexually transmitted infections presented throughout the semester. It focused on the infections mentioned in the “All Bonaventure Reads” book for this year, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

According to, a person can contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) through any sort of sexual encounter, including kissing, oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex.

Brooke Blazius, a biology major on the presentation team, volunteered her time for this project to make students aware that sexually transmitted infections really do exist.

The junior at St. Bonaventure says that having college students teach fellow college students about a topic this personal changes the environment of a typical sex education health class.

Freshman biology major Harsha Koneru thought of this presentation as a great refresher course on STIs. It seemed as if students in the class, him included, did not consciously realize that people even at St. Bonaventure could have these types of infections.

The monologues transformed the information from a simple high school health class that make students feel uncomfortable to a more relatable, real-life situation, says Koneru.

Tim Crino, a freshman Spanish and English double major, has not yet seen the STI presentation. He hopes that after the class, he can distinguish the myths and exaggerations from the facts about STIs.

Slides in the presentation establish the facts about the most common sexually transmitted infections and how they spread.

For instance, one can contract the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A person can contract herpes by kissing someone with or without a cold sore present, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The slide that most impressed Puja Chabra, a freshman biology major, had a two-column list of the most common STIs—twenty-five of them. Typically, health classes only mention a few that exist.

The female silhouette on the screen previously mentioned learned firsthand, at the age of 17, about human papillomavirus (HPV) and its consequences including cervical cancer.

Because her boyfriend had not used condoms with previous girls he had had sex with, he probably contracted the HPV from one of them.

Through sexual transmission, he then transferred the virus to his girlfriend because they too did not use a condom. While both males and females infected with HPV can have genital warts, the most severe effect, cervical cancer, affects only females.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 percent of sexually active people contract HPV during their lifetime. Doctors diagnose about 12,000 women a year in the U.S. with cervical cancer.

She made one mistake: she did not use a condom with a person who had not been tested for STIs. This mistake resulted in the surgical removal of her uterus, making her infertile. She will never naturally have a baby.

Disclaimer: Abstaining from sex is the only way to 100 percent prevent getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The Catholic Church and St. Bonaventure University suggest to practice in this manner.

featured with minor changes in The Bona Venture

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Well done.

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