Safe Sex?

39 percent of high school students are taught how to use a condom, while 82 percent of males report using a condom the first time they have sex, according to reports from

It’s Friday night and you’re hanging out with your significant other, your latest hook-up — anyone, really. Things start to heat up and sex is definitely on the agenda.

You fumble around in your pocket for a condom but find nothing. She casually mentions she isn’t on birth control, and now you’re both faced with a decision — do you take a chance and run the higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or becoming pregnant, or do you part ways and call it a night?

In a world saturated with sex, how do you make sure you’re staying as safe as possible?

There are several ways for students to protect themselves, including but not limited to condoms, birth control, being careful about the number of partners you choose and abstinence, said Dr. Kyrel Buchanan, director of university health services, via email.

Numbers released by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2008 said that 72 percent of people ages 15 to 24 are engaging in some form of sexual activity like oral, vaginal and anal intercourse.

A separate study, published in 2010 by the National Institutes of Health, found that less than 24 percent of sexually active 18- to 24-year-olds use condoms consistently while engaging in sexual intercourse.

“Being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner (is one option students have),” Buchanan said via email. “However, both partners need to be tested to make sure that they are not infected. Also, think twice about engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who has had previous partners but is unwilling to use protection or to be tested for STIs.”

Safe sex reduces the risk of contracting or spreading STIs, too.

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI among sexually active individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Buchanan said via email chlamydia is the most widely contracted STI, consistent with national data for the college age range.

“Females and males can make appointments for STI testing at University Health Services,” Buchanan said via email. “We test for a variety of STIs. Gonorrhea and chlamydia testing are free; the price ranges for other STI tests, depending on the test conducted.”

Buchanan said that while University Health Services provides condoms free of charge to students, they do not give out free birth control packages.

“Females can have a prescription written for birth control pills upon consultation with our providers,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan cautions students to remember what birth control pills and condoms are for, though.

“Birth control pills are designed to prevent pregnancy, not to prevent contracting an STI,” she said. “Latex male condoms are most effective when used consistently and correctly. Please be aware that condoms protect from some, but not all, STIs.”

Victoria McCoy, a senior psychology major, is married but still engages in safe sex practices by taking birth control pills daily.

“I definitely do (engage in safe sex practices),” she said. “We can’t afford to have children right now, and that’s why I’m on birth control. I take a daily chewable pill called Generess Fe.”

Considering all aspects of engaging in sexual activity beforehand is critical, Buchanan said.

“Students should think very carefully about who they choose for a sexual partner and their motivations for entering a sexual relationship with someone,” she said. “Choosing to be in a sexual relationship with someone is a serious decision, especially given the emotional, psychological, physical and even spiritual implications.”

Buchanan said students with questions or looking for more information about safe sex practices or STI testing should contact University Health Services.