When i teach the introductory course in biology, I make a special note to talk about the sexually transmitted diseases that are circulating among sexually active college students. I go into considerable detail about the diseases these sexually transmitted pathogens cause and the relatively high frequency of infection among college students.
This tour includes the standard fare of things that do not make in into many R-rated movies: AIDS, ugly lesions due to syphilis, yeast infections, and pus laden or cheesy discharges. Of course, I cannot stop there. I go on to mention the less widely recognized damage from venereal diseases, such as t-cell leukemia, paralysis, interfertility due to oviduct scarring, ectopic pregnancies, cervical cancer, liver cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
I also mention that may be caused be sexually transmitted pathogens but for which there is presently insufficient information to label them sexually transmitted diseases. In this category are endometriosis, miscarriages, chromosomal damages of fetuses, low sperm counts, and penile cancer.
At the end of the lecture, when i ask how many will be less likely to have sex with someone they have been feeling ambivalent about, 90 percent or so of the students raise a hand. My obliging students may be humoring me, but the pallor of their faces suggests that they are answering the question honestly.
Simply providing people with information about the way things really are alters mind sets. The extent to which the altered mind sets actually alter sexual behavior remains to be demonstrated carefully controlled studies, but it would be very surprising if there were no effect.