Bumping uglies: The dirty truth about STIs

By in Sports & Health

Uninvited guests like sexually transmitted infections can ruin the mood of a night in with a lover. Don’t fret, though. There are many ways to protect yourself and minimize the risks, while still enjoying yourself, and this article will show you how to do so with the resources available to you on campus.

The free condoms you can find on campus are just one means of protecting yourself against STIs.

STIs are bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections that are spread through sexual activities. All sexual activities carry a risk — sorry to ruin the party — and unfortunately, STIs are often asymptomatic even when they are infectious. This means you can be infected by your lover without ever knowing.

If you peek behind the bed sheets of history, syphilis — an adorable, squiggly bacteria — spread through Europe like wildfire. There was often no way of knowing your bedfellow was infected until the end stages. Syphilis is still around, but thanks to the invention of antibiotics, it and many other STIs are treatable, for now anyway.

This may not always be the case, as antibiotic resistance is making bacterial infections harder to treat. Gonorrhea is one STI that is waging a war against antibiotics. So, it’s critical to avoid initial infection as best you can.

Let’s take a look at the best ways for you to navigate your sexual health. If we look at the Student Health and Dental Plan, it can be confusing to know what is covered regarding STI protection. The plan includes prescription drugs, so products like the birth control pill and the NuvaRing are covered for up to 80 per cent of the cost. However, these products, although usually effective at preventing pregnancy, are not a method of protection from infection.

If you do receive an unexpected gift from your Tinder date, antibiotics are also covered under the plan. The plan covers medications for chronic viral STIs, like HIV and herpes, for up to 80 per cent. Antivirals are the best treatment to manage these long-term viral infections.

The health plan, although great for some prescriptions, fails to deliver much in the way of funding for barriers, although there is $150 in the plan for vaccinations that protect against some STIs. So, what’s the best way to protect yourself against STIs? Let’s take a look at BET — barriers, education and testing.

If you take a trip up to the fourth floor of the Place Riel Student Centre, you’ll see the sexual-health oasis that is the Student Wellness Centre. Here, you will find the best ways to protect yourself. Barrier protection is your best friend when it comes to minimizing your risk for infection.

Barriers come in all shapes and sizes, from male and female condoms to dental dams that help to minimize infection risk during oral sex. Unfortunately, barriers are not fool proof and won’t always protect you from something like herpes, which can spread through direct physical contact.

This is where education comes in. The centre has pamphlets and knowledgeable health-care staff and student volunteers who can answer all your questions and arm you with tools for sex that’s both safe and smart. One such person is Hallie MacLachlan, a fourth-year nursing student completing a rotation at the centre, who offers this tip.

“Get educated! Search out credible information on all forms of sexual health, and keep sourcing out information until you feel comfortable and confident,” MacLachlan said, in an email to the Sheaf.

MacLachlan also discusses our last means of protection: testing.

“Students can come to the [centre] for STI testing. These can be done by [a Registered Nurse], which means students usually get tested the same day they walk into the clinic,” MacLachlan said.

Regular testing is crucial to staying healthy and making sure you aren’t passing along unwanted gifts to your bed buddies. Knowing your sexual-health status can also help you access prompt treatment if you happen to get infected.

There are many resources available on campus, so students can continue to have healthy and safe sexual encounters. So, pick up a barrier device, brush up on some medical microbiology, and pee in a cup — your partners will thank you.

Erin Matthews

Photo: Michaela DeMong