Welcome to a new academic year at university!
Many of you will have enjoyed Freshers week or simply seeing your friends back in Bristol again..…perhaps there has been a bit more celebration than study? Alcohol can contribute to risk-taking behaviour that could lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
A survey of 16 – 24-year-olds (Define 2008) found that after drinking alcohol
• One in seven have had unsafe sex (i.e. Not using a condom)
• One in five had sex and later wished they hadn’t
• One in 10 were unable to remember whether they had sex the night before
• Many (40%) agreed that they would be more likely to have casual sex
How many of you are nodding in agreement..?
Worryingly, Public Health England (PHE) published data in June that showed that new sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses rose 5% in 2012 to almost half a million….HALF A MILLION!!!!
Although in part due to improvements in data collection, the high STI rates in England suggest too many people are still putting themselves at risk through unsafe sex, especially young adults, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Does this include you?
Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed STI (46%), but considerable numbers of genital warts (16%) and genital herpes (7%) cases were also reported last year. New gonorrhoea diagnoses rose 21%. Those aged under 25 experienced the highest STI rates, contributing 64% chlamydia and 54% of genital warts diagnoses in heterosexuals in 2012.
But “I don’t have any symptoms……so I am ok…..right?”
50% of men and 70-80% of women don’t get symptoms at all with Chlamydia infection.
You have up to a 1 in 10 chance of testing positive to Chlamydia!
That’s why the National Chlamydia Screening Programme exists- its target is to control Chlamydia and its complications, which can include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women and epididymitis in men.
The advice is that sexually active under 25 year olds should be screened for Chlamydia EVERY year, and on change of sexual partner. Over the age of 25 you should still seek a test following any change in partner.
So “how can I reduce my chances of picking up an STI?” Well, you could just stay home and study, but if that isn’t appealing then consider the following options.
Recalling that many people with infections are unaware of their status, as they don’t have any symptoms (and therefore cant warn you), the best advice is therefore to –
- Reduce the number of sexual partners you have
- Avoiding overlapping sexual relationships
- Always use a condom when having sex with casual and new partners
- Get tested regularly if you’re in one of the higher risk groups (eg MSM)
- Get screened for chlamydia every year (if aged under 25) and on change of sexual partner.
You can access testing through the Students’ Health Service- see the contraception and sexual health section on our website for more details. You can also pick up a self-testing kit for Chlamydia (and it also tests for Gonorrhoea too) in the practice- they are on the windowsills along the corridors and in the waiting room.
So make sure it’s a memorable start to the new academic year…for all the right reasons and that your not left with an unwelcome memento of that big night out!