Safe is sexy. Find out how to keep yourself safe in the sack.
Ospreys: take control of your sexual health
A new school year brings new students and new experiences. Sexual encounters go with the territory, making it important for students to be informed about their sexual health.
The unnerving truth is anyone can get an STD or STI even if sexual intercourse does not take place. Oral sex can lead to the transmission of STI’s and STD’s.
Know your partner(s)
Dr. Frederick Beck, the chief medical officer of Student Health Services, advises sexually active students to get tested and be aware of their partner’s history.
“A person’s probability of contracting an STI is directly proportional to the number of sexual partners they have had,” Beck said.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Beck said.
Gaia Zori, who has a Masters in Public Health and is a Certified Health Education Specialist, is the director of Education Planned Parenthood of North Florida, also advises testing.
“Being in a monogamous relationship can also encourage safer sex, but does not negate the need for regular STI testing of both partners because not all STI’s have physical signs or symptoms, and it is possible to be infected without being aware of it,” Zori said.
Regular testing can provide relief from worries and possibly take care of something that could become a major issue if left untreated, such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhea.
“Better to find out and be aware of things than learn the hard way,” Beck said.
Student Health Services provides free condoms to students, as well as confidential pregnancy tests and STI/STD screening and treatment. Appointment slots fill quickly, so it is best to call ahead.
“As soon as classes start we fill every appointment,” Beck said.
STD’s and STI’s
Zori clarified the difference between STD’s and STI’s.
“Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are caused by infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. These infections often do not cause any symptoms. Medically, infections are only called diseases when they cause symptoms. That is why STDs are also called “sexually transmitted infections.” But it’s very common for people to use the terms “sexually transmitted diseases” or “STDs,” even when there are no signs of disease,” Zori.
According to Planned Parenthood of North Florida for Duval County, Chlamydia is the most prominent of STI’s at 77%. Coming in second is Gonorrhea at 22%, with Syhpilis coming in third at 1%.
Even if a person has an STI or STD, there may not be any symptoms.
“We did a prevalence study and found that 9% of samples in asymptomatic individuals tested positively for Chlamydia,” Dr. Beck said.
Just because you don’t see or experience any symptoms, does not mean that you are STI or STD free.
Oral sex not exactly safe sex
Oral sex is another way to transmit an STI or STD, such as gonorrhea, herpes, HPV or syphilis.
“It is difficult to determine the exact rates of transmission of STI’s through oral sex, since many sexually active individuals practice oral sex in addition to other sexual behaviors. Further, mode of transmission is not regularly assessed when individuals are diagnosed with STI’s. According to Avert, an international HIV/AIDS prevention organization, herpes is the STI most commonly passed via oral sex. There are no specific studies for Northeast Florida,” Zori said.
Condoms and dental dams can provide some protection during oral sex, but it is better for both partners to get tested and, if need be, treated.
The only safe sex is no sex. But if you are sexually active, there are a few measures you can try to protect yourself.
There is no doubt that condoms are effective against preventing pregnancy, but STD’s and STI’s can still be contracted with the use of a condom.
“Condoms can be very effective,” said Beck, “[but] with herpes and HPV there is much less evidence that condoms serve to prevent transmission.”
“All of the measures fall under the umbrella of practicing safer sex and help reduce the risk of an unintended pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted infection. Measures of safer sex include regular STI testing for both the students and their partners; using condoms properly every time they engage in vaginal, anal or oral sex; using dual-protection for contraception by using both a hormonal and barrier method to increase protection against unintended pregnancy,” Zori said.
There are lower risk forms of sex play such as kissing, mutual masturbation, or dry sex.
Where to go
Students looking to educate themselves can go to Student Health Services or Health Promotions on campus.
Student Health Services provides screening and treatment, while Health Promotions is predominately educational but also provides HIV testing.
Information about Student Health Services and Health Promotions can be found on the UNF website.
Students can also go to one of the Planned Parenthood locations around Jacksonville for testing or birth control and other services that vary by location. The website, plannedparenthood.org, is also helpful and informational.
These are some web resources for understanding sexual health:
Student Health Services http://www.unf.edu/shs/
Planned Parenthood plannedparenthood.org
Advocates for Youth advocatesforyouth.org
Go Ask Alice goaskalice.columbia.edu
Sex, ect. sexetc.org