Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s talk about a few serious issues.
Depending on your personal background, you might feel confident in your sexual knowledge, or you might have an unanswered question or two. Luckily, CU has more resources than you can shake your groove thang at.
For female students, the Women’s Clinic at Wardenburg Health Center is often the first stop for information, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, birth control, walk-in pregnancy tests, emergency contraception and free condoms.
They also offer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at low or reduced costs to students. This vaccine protects women from the four most common strains of the infection, which, in some cases, can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. HPV is so common, the CDC estimates, that half of all sexually active men and women will contract it at some point in their lives. For more information, call the Women’s Health Clinic at 303-492-2030.
Guys can get their STI screenings and have their questions answered at Wardenburg’s main medical clinic, on the first floor. To schedule an appointment, or if you have any questions, call 303-492-5432. STI testing is free for students under both the Wardenburg Campus Care insurance plan and the Student Gold insurance plan, so you have no reason not to get it done. Your partner will thank you.
Another valuable resource for sex information is the community health department, located in Room 411 of the UMC. While community health addresses a number of public health issues, from stress to the flu to relationship concerns, staff and volunteers can also help you get the information you need when it comes to being sexually active. And, like Wardenburg, they keep a stash of free condoms and samples of lubrication on hand.
One of the most important things to know about sex is that it’s first and foremost a personal choice. If you want to refrain, refrain. If you want to experiment, experiment. Just make sure you do it safely, of course.
So what are some of the things we want you to stay safe from? Patricia Kintzing, a nurse at the Women’s Clinic, says that along with HPV, the bacterial infection chlamydia is one of the most common STIs she sees among students. Symptoms, if they do appear, include abnormal discharge, burning sensation when urinating, and itching. Even worse, it can damage a woman’s reproductive ability if left untreated. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but it’s best to catch it early.
The other STI that Wardenburg screens for when you go in to get tested is gonorrhea, also a bacterial infection. Symptoms for men can include white, yellow or green discharge from the penis, and sometimes painful or swollen testicles. For women, symptoms are usually mild and can include painful urination and increased discharge. Untreated, gonorrhea can cause a host of other health problems, including infertility and even death in rare cases.
One of the most serious dangers of unprotected sex is HIV. Because early detection helps protect you and your potential partners, community health offers free, confidential HIV testing for CU students throughout the year. The test itself is quick, and you’ll have your results in around 10 minutes. For off-campus resources, Boulder County Public Health (www.bouldercounty.org/ health) offers HIV testing and counseling, and the Boulder County AIDS Project (www. bcap.org) offers support for those who have tested positive.
Don’t rely on your own visual assessment when deciding if the person you’re with is “safe.” Just because the guy or girl you’re about to get with isn’t oozing and discharging at this very moment doesn’t mean they’re clean and clear. Remember, many people with STIs don’t show symptoms all the time.
“Any person that you have sex with can have any of these things,” Kintzing says.
So how do you stay safe? Abstinence is the surest way to safety. After all, you can’t get wet if you don’t get in the pool. If you do decide to test the waters, though, condoms — and knowing how to use them properly — are a great start. Use them every time, for the entire time.
Also, Kintzing warns against mixing sex and alcohol. While you might think it helps “grease the wheels,” so to speak, it also clouds your judgment, lowers your inhibitions and kills your dexterity. Putting on a condom isn’t rocket science, but it does help if you can still see straight to do it.
Communication is another important tool at your disposal. Use your words. Tell your partner what you want — or don’t want. Sex should be fun and safe for everyone involved, so don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.
Other resources for exploring the ins and outs (no pun intended) of sexuality (and not just how to “do it”) include the Women’s Resource Center (www.colorado.edu/WomensResourceCenter), the Gay- Straight Alliance (www.colorado.edu/StudentGroups/ cugsa) and, in the community, Planned Parenthood (www.plannedparenthood.org).