A Time magazine article reported that among the things the 1990s did better, informing American students about the dangers of unprotected sex was one of them.
The article reported that about a decade ago, 60 percent of American students used condoms but it has been at a standstill since. In some demographics, that number is declining.
“Consistent and correct use of the male latex condom reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission,” the Center for Disease Control reported in an online fact sheet.
The CDC warns condom use is not 100 percent effective all the time, and the most reliable ways to avoid exposure to STIs is to either abstain from sex or to be in a “long-term monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”
Director of the Plattsburgh State Student Health and Counseling Center Kathleen Camelo, said the Center is part of the New York State Condom Program, a self-described initiative of the state Department of Health’s AIDS Institute, which enables Plattsburgh State to get its condoms for free in an effort to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.
Condoms are available in the Health Center’s self-care station for free.
“Students can come in and pick up condoms, and we really encourage that,” Camelo said. “In the past where we used to sell them very cheaply – four for $1 – we’re at the point where we give them away.”
Camelo said both male and female condoms, along with lubricants, are also available to students free of charge.
“We really are very proactive in trying to prevent sexually transmitted infections,” Camelo said. “There’s an increase now in gonorrhea and syphilis. It’s making a resurgence.”
Camelo said, as opposed to the 1990s, where the AIDS epidemic was in full force, AIDS patients are now living longer, and people aren’t thinking about HIV as much.
“We’re still seeing chlamydia, and the HIV is out there. It’s not like it’s really gone away,” Camelo said.
She said, however, that not a lot of students identify as having HIV.
“HIV is still a disease that compromises your immune system,” she said. “It’s kind of been out of the press, so it’s not just in the forefront of people’s minds.”
Camelo said in addition to commonly known STIs and HIV, condoms protect against the spread of human papilloma virus, or HPV, which men and women can catch.
“We’re always trying to promote testing,” Camelo said.
She said the process is the same for both genders: a urine test, which Camelo said is simple.
Camelo said this process and HIV testing are both covered by students’ insurance.
“We really recommend that when you start a new relationship, you and your partner should get tested,” she said, adding that disclosing one’s sexual history to one’s partner is “part of prevention.”
Among STI tests performed on students last academic year at the health center, five tested positively for chlamydia, and zero tested positively for gonorrhea.
PSUC sophomore Ibukun Charles said students who don’t wear condoms might not wear them due to a variety of reasons, from not liking the way they feel to pressure from his or her partner.
She said wearing a condom is a sign of responsibility.
“Anybody who is taking precautions with themselves and another person is responsible,” Charles said. “You taking that step to put it on is actually showing that person that you care for them and yourself.”
Charles said there is an immediacy to sex in most cases with college students.
“You can’t take your first date to a clinic and say, ‘Let’s get tested. I want to have sex with you the next day.’ It’s kind of awkward,” she said.
PSUC senior Markus Dixon said that for him, the decision of whether to wear a condom hinges on familiarity to his partner, waiting two to three years with one person before he chooses not to wear a condom.
“I’m the type of person who sits down and goes to the doctor with my girlfriend,” he said. “Before I even do anything, that’s just a safe way. You only got one life.”
Dixon said more students should wear condoms if they want to be conscientious of their health.
“Float your own boat, but you got to be able to paddle that boat after you’re done,” he said.
Email Timothy Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org