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Safer sex isn’t just about intercourse

Health and wellness educator Beth Grampetro explains why safer sex isn’t just about intercourse.

Health Matters

Beth Grampetro, health and wellness educator for the Office of Residence Life, explains why safer sex isn’t just about intercourse. Find out more at Sexuality Savvy, a workshop scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at 19 Deerfield St., cosponsored by the Wellness and Residential Education Center and the Coalition for Consensual Sex.

Many people know that latex condoms, when used correctly during intercourse, can help prevent pregnancy and many sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But according to a recent survey by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, many young people think oral sex is a safer, more acceptable alternative than vaginal intercourse and believe that it carries little or no risk of getting STIs.

In fact, any infection that can be transmitted through penile-vaginal contact can also be passed on through oral sex. The risk of transmission of STIs through oral sex is lower, but protection in the form of a latex condom or a dental dam should still be used during oral sex, according to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Deciding whether or not to practice safer sex in all types of sex activity can have far-reaching consequences. While some STIs can be cured using medication, there are many that have no cure, including herpes and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Some STIs can have long-term effects if left untreated, including infertility in women, and the presence of an STI can make a person two to five times more likely to acquire HIV if exposed to it through sexual contact. Grampetro adds that a frequently overlooked aspect of avoiding STIs is personal planning: each person should consider carefully whether sexual intimacy of any type is right for his or her situation.

Students can visit Student Health Services at 881W Commonwealth Ave., where testing for some STIs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, is offered. If a student needs a test that is not offered by Student Health Services, referrals are available for a variety of testing sites in the local community. Above all, it is important to be honest with your health-care provider about your sexual activity, so that he or she can assist you in making good decisions about your treatment.