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Students eye safe sex options

Whips, handcuffs and lubricant may not symbolize purity or chastity, but they do symbolize a part of life that every college student is aware of.

As promiscuity becomes more prevalent at college campuses, are students doing “the deed” in a mature and safe manner?

The only way to guarantee that no negative repercussions will follow sex is to abstain from having sex. However, this is not an answer students generally choose to follow.

“I always mention when I talk about sexual health that not having intercourse is the best way to make sure that you remain safe and healthy, but I’m not naive enough to think saying that will stop kids from having sex,” said Ashley Falcon, the assistant director of the Wellness Center.

“That’s why it is my job to try and give students a broad and thorough understanding of how to practice safe sex and what could happen to them if they don’t.”

With her work, Falcon hopes to keep the University of Miami’s students some of the healthiest in the country.

She speaks at different information sessions during orientation at the beginning of each year, educating the incoming students about ways to stay healthy. But she also does private sessions during the year for student organizations on topics including nutrition, wellness and the ever so popular topic of sexual health.

Falcon’s presentations are free for the organization and are set up very casually to promote student interest in what the different presentations have to say.

“I let students do a lot of the talking during my sessions so I can get a feel for what the group does and doesn’t know,” Falcon said. “By the time you reach college most people have heard about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections plenty already. The message I try and deliver to students is to ask themselves, ‘What is your motivation on doing what is right for yourself?’ and hope that I can get them to make smarter decisions in the future.”

Negative Consequences

But what if students don’t make responsible decisions?

The University Health Center offers a number of resources and aims to help solve most sexually related concerns.

Dr. Howard Anapol, the director of the Health Center, said that approximately 1,400 students come in to get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia, 350 for syphilis and 660 for HIV each school year. However, despite this rate of concerned students, the results come back either right on par with or below the national averages for positive test results.

Less than 1 percent of students test positive for gonorrhea and roughly 3.5 percent test positive for chlamydia-both of which are completely curable upon diagnosis. Anapol said students “almost never test positive” when they are tested for HIV or syphilis.

The HIV test is free to all students. All of the other STI tests are free to students who have health insurance through UM’s Health Center. For those not insured through United Health Benefits, chlamydia and gonorrhea tests are $20 and the syphilis test is $10.

Safe Alternatives

While it is good that so few are testing positive for STI’s, both Anapol and Falcon are concerned about the number of students taking these tests: despite receiving sex education, they are still not all practicing safe sex.

“Between the condoms that are restocked each day at the Health Center and all of the presentations done throughout the year, we give out thousands of free condoms every year in hopes to encourage their use amongst students to protect against infection and pregnancy,” Anapol said.

He went on to point out that although condoms are the most commonly used contraceptive, the Health Center also offers prescriptions for various types of birth control pills and now offers “Plan B,” also known as the “Morning After Pill,” as a form of emergency contraceptive within the first 120 hours of an unprotected sexual encounter.

Anapol said, unlike most hospitals, a gynecological exam is not necessary before the prescription is given, but it is the Health Center’s policy that “the students come in and talk with an employee before receiving their prescription to make sure that they understand that birth control and Plan B are good options for pregnancy but offer no protection against the transmission of STI’s.”

Not only are condoms cheap to begin with-ranging from $9 to $15 for a pack of 12-but the Health Center restocks a jar of free condoms every day and has more than 10,000 prophylactics in storage.

“I think that a good amount of the student body practices safe sex, because condoms are a whole lot cheaper than kids,” Steve Balch, a sophomore, said.

Safest Sex Is No Sex?

The Rev. Richard Mullen, a chaplain at the St. Augustine Catholic Church, disagreed.

“The idea of using contraceptives contradicts the whole concept of sex and love,” he said. “It makes a mockery of the element of commitment in a true love relationship.

“By needing to use a contraceptive, it is basically saying you are not committed enough to the other person-whether it be because you do not know enough about their history to trust them, or because you do not love them enough to have a child with them-and therefore should not be sleeping with the other individual anyways.”

Mullen also said having sex with another person should be treated as a large responsibility, adding that most college students are not ready for that sort of commitment.

Responsibility of Choice

Falcon said another responsibility that falls on students’ decisions deals with mixing alcohol with sex. She suggested that students should think about their plans for the night before they start drinking.

“This way you don’t drink beyond your limit, but also so you are more prepared for situations later in the night when you haven’t thought about them and might feel pressured into making the wrong decision and regretting it in the morning,” Falcon said.

UM students also think that responsibility and contraception are important aspects of a student’s sex life.

A male student who asked to remain anonymous due to the nature of the comment said, “I had always practiced safe sex in high school but stopped caring as much when I got to college and started to drink when I went out more. When I got an STI, lucky for me it was chlamydia, which is curable. It totally changed my perspective and I will never make the same mistake again.”

Lauren Kudisch, a junior, also thinks that contraception is necessary.

“Students should all absolutely practice safe sex,” she said. “In the promiscuous age that we live in, protecting yourself is the only reasonable decision because you never really know the whole truth to a person’s past.”

Health Center

More than 2,000 tests for STI’s are conducted each year by the University’s Health Center

UM students test positive for the different STI’s at the same percentage or less than the national averages

A pack of a dozen condoms usually costs between $9 and 15

The Health Center refills a jar of free condoms everyday, with a supply of 10,000 on hand

The Health Center offers other forms of contraception besides condoms, including different prescriptions of birth control and the “Morning After Pill,” known professionally as “Plan B”

Plan B should be used within the first 120 hours of an unprotected sexual encounter

Alex Gelep may be contacted at a.gelep@umiami.edu.

April 27, 2007

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.