University is all about newfound independence and friends. With this, many start to explore their sexuality. Fresher’s week is no exemption, with themed nights all over the country at every university, students get to know each other and some get a lot closer than others. With all this rush of excitement, protection might be forgotten about in the thrill of the moment. We are going to discuss why it's so important always to use protection, and how to seek help after unprotected sex.
In 2019 a resounding 467,096 sexually transmitted infections (STI) were diagnosed in England alone. Chlamydia is the far most common STI, with most people not experiencing any symptoms. However, other STIs such as genital herpes and gonorrhoea are on the rise.
It has been reported that ¼ of students catch an STI in their first year of university. STIs are not just transmitted by penetrative sex but also by oral sex, which a lot of people are not aware of. There is a stigma around STIs that needs to go away. It is crucial to get tested after every new sexual partner. This is for your health and safety. There are treatments available for all STIs, this usually involves a week of antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to complications later in life such as infertility.
As most STIs are asymptomatic, it is extremely important to get tested to have peace of mind. 17% of people don't know they have HIV. This is a worrying percentage. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to sex. We all know that condoms offer the best protection from STIs and pregnancy during penetrative sex. Pop along to your student union, they will most likely have a large stash of condoms to hand out free of charge.
To get tested, you can go to a sexual health clinic. If you are new to the area, you can find out your closest one online or your university will be able to guide you. You can also request a home testing kit, where you will be able to test for STIs such as chlamydia or HIV from the comfort of your own home. An STI test involves a swab of the vagina, penis, rectum, or sometimes the mouth if oral sex was performed. This may seem daunting but you will experience little to no discomfort during the testing process. Once your test has been sent to the lab you will receive your results in a few days where you will be contacted and your results explained. If you test positive for an STI you will be provided with support and a prescription to treat the infection. Don’t be afraid to question your sexual partners regarding their sexual health. This is for your safety.
Some STIs have more obvious symptoms. Gonorrhoea can cause pain in urinating as well as vaginal discharge. Genital herpes involves red sores around the genitals. There is no cure for genital herpes but can be managed.
Contraception is advised when you become sexually active. There is a list of different options on what might be best for you. This list varies from condoms and the pill to the IUD. In cases where a contraceptive method has failed, such as a split condom or you’ve missed a pill. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy but it does not prevent an STI. The morning-after pill has a 99% success rate and can be purchased in any pharmacy in the UK. This involves having a small private chat with the pharmacist to make sure all is ok, and that it was consensual. They will also advise you on where to go for an STI test too.
Enjoy your university experience but please be safe!
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