Sexual Health and Guidance  week may be over but its important to remember its lessons year round. Kaytie Mcfadden comments.

VP Welfare and Communities Tom Renhard with in his giant box of condoms.
VP Community and Welfare Tom Renhard in his giant box of condoms.

With almost half a million cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections diagnosed in England in 2012, it is clear that this is a problem which needs to be taken seriously. 64% of those diagnosed with chlamydia are under the age of 25, meaning that university students are especially at risk. SHAG week, which stands for Sexual Health And Guidance week (very apt acronym, right?!) took place at UWE during February and provided lots of information about sexuality, consent, gender and contaception. 

Everyone knows about STIs. Everyone knows to use a condom. So why do infection rates continue to rise? Any contact between your private bits can pass on infections – it doesn’t have to be penetrative. So don’t leave it to chance – get checked out regularly. Chlamydia, for example, doesn’t always have symptoms. However, it can cause infertility, which will not be fun later in life when you decide to settle down. If you’re going to have a one night stand then be sensible. Can you really trust that person who you’ve known for 4 hours that they’re clean?

The rules are simple:

  1. Don’t have sex with someone without a condom.
  2. If you are in a monogomous relationship then BOTH get checked out. Then you can go on the pill/get the implant and then have lots of sex without having to use condoms.

It should not be one person’s responsibility to carry condoms. It seems to be pretty standard that men are expected to carry condoms, and women are expected to request that the man wears one. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. It is the responsibility of both partners to carry condoms and insist that they are worn. Carrying condoms does not make you ‘easy’. It makes you safe.

Personally, I think people being embarrassed about the topic is part of the reason that STI rates are continuing on an upwards trend. Having been raised Catholic, including attending a Catholic primary school where sex education was literally non-existent, I definitely understand the awkwardness. Although my family were always relatively open, I still had the very definite sense that sex was a bad thing (certainly before marriage anyway!) I then attended a multi-faith secondary school, which was very open. Sex education there was extremely honest, and this frankness is entirely necessary. Unless sex is treated as the totally natural act which it is, then people will find it awkward to discuss safe sex.

We need to normalise sex and normalise contraception. This is done through conversation, education and honesty. Sex and relationship education is woefully inadequate in most schools within Britain. This needs to be tackled before the issue of STIs can truly be tackled. Education is empowering, and people need to be empowered to make responsible decisions about safe sex.

Whether you choose to have sex with a man, a woman, a transgender; one person or multiple, monogomous or not. However, wherever, with whomever. Just remember one thing: BE SAFE. It’s simply not worth the risk.