If you have ever had sex, thought about having sex or want to have sex, this applies to you. And therefore, each one of you needs to know about the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are eight common types of STIí ó these include chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, HIV/AIDS, syphilis and trichomoniasis. It is important to be aware of the dangers these can cause to your personal and sexual health. The easiest way to protect yourself from contracting one of these STIís is to simply not have sex, but letís be real about this, thatís not going to happen, so I hope to offer you an alternative to abstinence.

First of all, who should be concerned about STIís?† The answer is everyone, I donít care how clean you think you and your partner are, unless you are a member of the Clergy or part of some other order that pushes abstinence, you are at risk. Anyone who has had sex should be concerned. And yes, that includes all types of sex ó oral, anal and vaginal sex, especially if it was unprotected sex. If you are still questioning whether youíre at risk, ask yourself the following questions: Do you or your sex partner have symptoms of STIís? Do you have more than one sex partner? Does your partner have other sex partners? Are you planning on having sex with a new partner? Do you think your behavior may be putting you at risk? The answers to these questions will help to assess whether you should be concerned, and if you are, I urge you to consider your safety options.

The most obvious way to protect yourself, besides abstinence, is to not have sex with an infected partner. However this information can be hard to obtain. People donít Twitter about their STIís, throw up a Facebook status about their most recent herpes outbreak or ask the person they take home from the UG about their sexual history, so it is important to take the necessary safety precautions. First off boys and girls, there is no such thing as safe sex, but there is safe-er sex. If you use a latex, or an alternative for the latex sensitive, condom each and every time you have sex you can protect yourself a great deal. Also, use a water-based lubricant to minimize the potential for condom breakage because that is just awkward. Condoms are readily available on campus and they are offered free of charge from the Longbrake Student Wellness Center. They are also available from your hallís Resident Assistant so there really isnít any excuse for not being safe.

If you are one of those kids who say ìI donít use condoms,” I have a few questions about your mental capacity.† Whether you are trying to seem cool, think they are too expensive or ruin sex, none of those potential downfalls can compare to the consequences of not using condoms. Your friends wonít think you are a badass anymore when you canít pee because it burns, your bank statement is going to plummet after paying for ongoing herpes medication, and Iíll be interested to see if your sex life isnít ruined by the new addition of genital warts or puss. Use the condom. Itís worth it.

Talk to your partner about your sexual history, concerns and how you both want to approach safe sexual health. You may be thinking to yourself, ìThatís weird. I donít even know this person and you want me to ask them about their history?” Well it may be an awkward conversation, but it is a necessary and important one. Additionally, you might want to reconsider your sexual exploits if you cannot openly communicate your sexual health concerns with your partner.† It may seem that your new potential mate is clean cut and pure, but you never know when you have a wolf in sheepís clothing sitting next to you.† One of the most common reasons people spread STIís is because they donít know they have them!

This is not meant to scare you away from sex. I am not trying to ruin your weekend plans.† All Iím saying is when youíre looking at that new hottie in the UG, or that hunky guy youíve had your eye on for a while, just remember to protect yourself. It will save you from a lot of bad situations and it could save your life. Remember, a talk about sexual history may be awkward at the moment, but herpes is for life!

If youíre concerned about STIís or just want the peace of mind that accompanies a negative result from a screening, you can be screened for STIís at the Longbrake Student Wellness Center. There is no fee for the first STI screening; an additional screening is $25. To set up an appointment, contact the Wellness Center at 330-263-2319 or from a campus phone at x2319. Also, the Wellness Center will be providing free, painless and fast HIV testing on a walk-in first come/first serve basis on Sept 16, 2009, Nov 18, 2009, Jan 20, 2010 and April 21, 2010.

If you have additional questions about how to maintain a healthy sexual lifestyle, feel free to contact members of Students Helping Students via facebook or through the Longbrake Student Wellness Center website.

**Source of health information is credited to**