When it comes to a healthy sex life, there is more to worry about than awkward moments or an unplanned pregnancy.
Half of all sexually active young people in the United States will get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the time they are 25, and most won”t even know it.
According to the latest National College Health Assessment data for the University of Idaho, 4.3 percent of sexually active students use condoms for oral sex, 48.7 percent for vaginal sex and 34.6 percent for anal sex. Using a barrier contraceptive, which includes the male condom, the female condom and the dental dam, is the only effective way to protect yourself from contracting an STI.
Many misconceptions get in the way of people properly protecting themselves. First, STI”s do not discriminate. Everyone has the ability to contract one, curable or incurable. In fact, 20 million people in the U.S. contract an STI every year, not including the ones that aren”t reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Second, you can”t always tell if you or your partner has an STI. Many people are unaware that they have an STI because some don”t show any noticeable symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested and to make sure your partner has been tested as well.
Third, oral and anal sex are not safer than vaginal sex. STIs can be transmitted orally, especially if either person has an open sore or bleeding gums. Unprotected anal sex also poses a STI risk. The anal cavity is comprised of permeable mucous membranes, which can provide an entry point for infection, and cuts or tears to the anal tissues can provide additional infection opportunities.
Not having sex is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent STIs. There are many things to consider before you choose to have sex, so don”t feel pressured to be sexually active until you are ready.
It is your right to say no and it is your right to say yes. When you decide you are ready to be sexually active, you can lower your risk of getting STIs by limiting the number of people you have sex with and using proper protection every time.
You and your partner, whether you are in a committed relationship or not, should have a conversation about your STI status and make sure you both have been tested before you have sex. It is safest to continue to use condoms or dental dams correctly every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex until you”ve both been tested, know your status and are in a mutually monogamous relationship.
It is also important to be honest with your healthcare provider about your sexual history so that he or she can provide you with the appropriate STI testing and prevention guidance. The Student Health Clinic on campus and other local clinics offer STI testing. Feel free to stop by the Vandal Health Education Resource Room if you or a friend have any additional questions about safe sex, contraception and STI testing, or want free condoms. Our peer health educators are happy to help you find the resources you need.
During Safe and Sexy Week, Feb. 8-12, we”re bringing sexual health information to you. Stop by one of our events in the Idaho Commons for free condoms, contraception and STI testing information and to talk to a peer educator. View the complete schedule at uidaho.edu/VandalHealthEd.
Ashtin Mitchell is a peer health educator with Vandal Health Education. She can be reached at email@example.com