Some people have heard rumors of it, others have experienced it firsthand.
It is a source of bad reputation — one that does not wash off.
This is Raider Rash: A slang term for rumored sexually transmitted diseases that come from Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Whether this term originated from rivals — or as a simple joke around campus — is unknown, but this known fact remains true — STDs are a current issue in Lubbock County.
Beckie Brawley, a public health coordinator with the City of Lubbock Health Department, said the rate is not primarily due to Red Raiders, though.
“They’re not just Tech students who come here,” she said. “We have people from all walks of life, students, people who are working every day and everybody you can imagine.”
In fact, Kelly Bennett, a medical director of Student Health Services, said being in college actually helps students take more preventative measures against STDs.
“If you compare a 22-year-old college student to a 22-year-old not in school, the college student is generally going to be much more healthy, less likely to drink heavily, less likely to commit suicide, less likely to be severely depressed and more likely to use protection against pregnancy and STDs,” she said.
Statistics provided by the Lubbock Health Department showed the total STD numbers in Lubbock County dropped from 2, 534 recorded infections in 2010 to 2,431 in 2011.
The most common STD in Lubbock County is chlamydia. Last year, a total of 1,737 cases were reported.
“Chlamydia is considered a silent sexually transmitted disease because you can be infected and never have a symptom,” she said. “Most generally, people are infected and they don’t know, and the way they find out is someone came in and got tested and they were named as a contact. Then they come in and get tested and they’re positive.”
In 2008, the American College Health Association pulled data from a voluntary, informal data-share that administrators of student health clinics in the Big 12 participated in, concerning STDs. Bennett said the results prove Tech’s STD rate is not much different from other schools in the Big 12, excluding male chlamydia. She said another data-share of this sort is due this year.
“When we test for chlamydia in girls, they’re not having symptoms, it’s just a screen,” she said. “When we test boys, they are actually having symptoms; that’s why you’re always going to find the rates in the males higher because of what you’re testing.”
Other statistics for Lubbock County involving STDs reported last year include: syphilis — 43 cases, down from 47 in 2010; gonorrhea — 627 cases, up from 618; AIDS — two cases, the same as in 2010; and HIV — 22 cases, down from 33 in 2010.
Bennett said the term Raider Rash is a misconception and Tech numbers are comparable to any other school in the nation. She said University of Texas is bound to have the “Longhorn Lop.”
Kwayne Bryant, a senior university studies major from San Antonio, said the first time he heard about Raider Rash was his freshman year, from the community adviser in his residence hall. He blames the STD rate among college students on living in a small college town. He encourages students to reduce this rate — and improve Red Raiders’ reputations — by not engaging in sexual activity with unfamiliar partners.
“Hooking up is just not a thing you should do,” he said. “If you’re going to do that, just be careful. Ask questions and get comfortable with that person before you take action. The only way to reduce the STD rate is to start with yourself.”
Brawley said the STD numbers for this area are a little high, but not by much. She said this could partially be due to the highly effective reporting systems in Lubbock.
“Now is that why our numbers are higher? I can’t tell you that 100 percent, but I can tell you it plays a part in that,” she said. “We established a very good disease surveillance department in 1995, and it has continued to be very strong throughout the years, with very good relationships with the labs, physicians, hospitals — which are the people who report.”
Brawley said in this region, disease intervention specialists, who are part of the state staff, work to notify people who test positive for STDs, as well as their sexual partners, then bring them in for treatment and testing.
“When you have a good response in interviewing the person who’s infected and you have a good response in contacting their partners, then yes, you’re going to have higher numbers because their partners are going to come in and get tested and treated,” she said, “and that all goes together and can increase your numbers.”
Brawley said abstinence is the only way to avoid STDs, and encourages students to get tested. To get tested at the health department it costs $20. Last year, the health department changed its testing procedure to where students just have to urinate in a cup instead of having cervical exams or urethral swabs if they do not show any symptoms of STDs. Rapid HIV tests are also performed in the clinic, which lets clients immediately know their results.
“People are more apt to come in when they know that they don’t have to have a cervical exam or a smear if they are not having any symptoms,” Brawley said.
To get checked at the Student Wellness Center, it may take less than two weeks wait time, but less than two days for those with symptoms. Bennett said she loves hearing the common story from male students who come for checkups, saying they met someone at the pool and a week later are wondering why it hurts to urinate.
“They tell me, ‘Well, she said she was clean’ and I say, ‘A girl would never lie to you to get what she wants, would she?’” Bennett said, sarcastically.
Linda Brice, an associate professor for nursing and the cofounder and director of Teen Straight Talk, said there are some STDs that can be treated with antibiotics, but others are incurable and deadly. She said the best way to prevent against STDs while engaging in sexual activity, is condoms, but urges students to learn how to put them on properly. She said only 30 percent of Tech students know how to correctly put a condom on, according to a survey.
“We want our college students to know what is out there that will harm them, how to protect themselves from it and make sure they use protections every time,” she said. “That will help protect them from most STDs.”
Brice said many people who need to be tested are couples about to begin their relationship. She said this is a good idea to ensure neither person is infected before engaging in sexual activity, especially since 75 percent of females show no signs of STDs.
Brice smiled and said she encourages making this a first date.
“If it is someone important to you, you both need to go down and be tested to make sure you both start out with a clean slate because when you have sex with someone, you’re having sex with all the people they had sex with and all the people that those people had sex with,” she said. “So when you get in bed with someone, you may be getting in bed with 200 people.”
Brice said students need to be educated about STDs and if they are not, they can learn more by contacting Teen Straight Talk by calling 806-241-3652 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Know how your body works and understand about the different STDs that are out there,” she said. “Part of being sexually active is being responsible and knowing the consequences.”
Bennett said students should have no shame in coming to get checked.
“People don’t realize that STDs aren’t really much different than getting a cold,” she said. “They’re all from human-to-human contact and they’re just a part of life, unless you want to go live in a nunnery. If you don’t want to live in a monastery, then STDs are something that you’re going to have to deal with or prevent, which I recommend the latter.”