As college health clinicians, we have been preaching safer sex to students for years. Are those messages getting through to students that have had HIV as part of their lives since they were born? An 18 year old first-year student in 2011 was born:
- 12 years after the HIV epidemic was first detected
- 3 years after we passed the 1 million mark in persons living with AIDS/HIV globally
By the time that student reached puberty, messages about HIV prevention had become part of the standard vocabulary, using the term “safer sex”. Knowing that all sexual activity involving more than one person always carries some risk, our efforts are meant to reduce those risks, making sex “safer”.
So, what does the typical college student in 2011 need in terms of safer sex education? We know that risk behavior still exists, both in sexually-transmitted infections (STI) and unintended pregnancy. Otherwise, there would be a blank screen whenever you tune into “Teen Mom” and ”16 and pregnant”. The recent increases in syphilis and HPV would not be happening, either.
Want some basic facts about preventing HIV, other STIs and pregnancy? The GYT (Get Yourself Tested) site has a great table of links to nearly all methods of practicing safer sex, from things that work (barriers, pills, shots, rings), to things that don’t work (peeing after sex??). Visit the PROTECT page at GYT to learn more.
Give us your comments about what you think is the most effective messaging to use on campus, and we will take a look at your recommendations. But be warned, walking around campus in a condom suit has already been taken off the table.
Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University