As an intern for Vandal Health Education, I am aware that a lot of sexual health information was being given out to students over Valentine’s Day, which is also recognized as National Condom Day. Sex is a controversial topic within health education, and many students come to college without receiving a formal education regarding contraception and STIs.
Valentine’s/National Condom Day is used as a gateway into this touchy topic, but often the facts are buried under the stigmas, rumors and myths that still surround sex. I also understand that many students are not sexually active, but I hope that this information will help as students navigate decisions related to their sexual health in the future.
If you make the decision to become sexually active, then you have taken on a role of responsibility that not only affects your own body, but also your partner’s. Communication with your medical provider and partner is key. There are many different contraception options for females, like the IUD (Paraguard and Hormonal), Nexplanon, Nuva Ring, pills, the Depo Shot and the patch. Additionally, most birth control options are covered by insurance, including our Student Health Insurance Program. Work with your insurance and provider to determine the out of pocket cost. It is easy to find one that works best for you. These contraceptives do not act to prevent diseases.
There is a reason sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are now medically referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Both names refer to an infection transmitted through sexual contact. The shift in the name happened to clarify that many STIs are treatable, which prevents them from turning into a disease. For example, most women who contract human papillomavirus (HPV), do not always develop cervical cancer and their symptoms often clear up within two years.
It is important to remember that having an STI doesn’t always mean you have an STD and there are preventative measures that can be taken. If you haven’t had the three-part vaccination for HPV, I highly recommend talking to your medical provider to determine whether this is a good option for you.
According to American Sexual Health Association, about 80 percent of all sexually active people in the U.S. contract one or more types of an HPV infection during their lifetime. Without upfront communication with your partner or partners, unsafe sexual practices is a game of chance, and it is very important to get tested regularly. Condoms should be used to help prevent the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, but are not always reliable protection from pregnancy because they are often misused.
There is no such thing as sex without risks, but if you are sexually active there are many ways to be “safer and responsible.” Sex is normal and part of many of our lives. If you are sexually active, be prepared by using internal or external condoms to protect against diseases and consider whether you need to take steps to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
If you have any questions concerning your sexual health, I encourage you to reach out to one of our many campus and community resources. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases can be done at the Student Health Clinic, Planned Parenthood in Pullman, Latah Community Health or your primary medical provider. You can also access contraception options at these locations.
Your sexual health can have a huge impact on mental health and well-being. Sex is just as much about the mind as the body. If sex adds stress or anxiety to your life, I encourage you to reach out for professional consultation at the Counseling and Testing Center.
Lastly, Vandal Health Education and the Women’s Center can provide resources, referrals and free condoms.