Sexual Health and COVID-19While not all students are having sex, for those that are having consensual sex with other people has always carried a mix of possible risks and benefits. COVID-19 presents a new health risk during in-person sexual activities with others and is an important factor to be considered during sexual decision making.
Our choices impact not only ourselves, but also our classmates, colleagues and the entire CSU community. These are choices we would all be making anyway, but for public health reasons, different kinds of risks exist right now. Communicating openly about both safety and boundaries with potential partners may be helpful for those navigating choices about sex during this time.
Take this brief five-minute quiz to determine your overall STI risk at STD Wizard.
Make Sex Safer
- Abstinence is the only way to nearly eliminate your risk of contracting an STI. If you do choose to have sex, you can lower your risk by forming a monogamous relationship in which you and your partner agree to be faithful, sexually. Avoid sexual contact with this partner until you have each been tested and are reasonably sure you are both free of STIs.
- Condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in preventing pregnancy and most STIs. However, if the STI is on the skin, outside the area covered by a condom, it can still be passed between partners. Use condoms made of latex or polyurethane. While condoms don’t provide protection 100 percent of the time, they are the best protection available against STIs. Condoms are also 85% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- Get Tested for STIs as part of your regular medical check-up, especially if you have changed partners or have more than one partner. Remember, a large percentage of people who have STIs have no symptoms.
- Learn the common symptoms of STIs and seek medical help promptly if any suspicions arise. Some common symptoms could include (but are not limited to): pain with urination or frequent urination, pain in the genital area or lower abdomen, unusual vaginal, urethral, or anal discharge, new sores or bumps, or bleeding or pain with intercourse. Many STIs have no symptoms.
- Do not use drugs or alcohol in potentially intimate situations.
Different types of contraception work in a variety of ways to prevent pregnancy. Some affect the hormones in your body, such as “the pill” or some intrauterine devices. Other forms, like condoms and diaphragms act as barrier methods to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Deciding which method of contraception to use isn’t always easy, but the best approach is to educate yourself about the different options. Ultimately, the choice is yours, based on what works best for you. Abstinence from all sexual activity is the only 100 percent effective form of birth control and (most) STI prevention.
Your healthcare provider can explain each type of contraception and assist you in making your decision. Some important questions you may want to ask include:
- What are the health risks associated with this method?
- What are the potential side effects?
- How well does this method prevent pregnancy?
- How much does this method cost?
- Will using this form of contraception have any effect on my, or my partner’s, future ability to get pregnant?
- Will using this method help my partner/me reduce the chance of transmitting an STI?
- Will this method interrupt intercourse? If so, will we use this consistently?
- Do I need my partner’s cooperation to use this form of birth control?
- Will I enjoy intercourse less because of this method?
- Will using this method be embarrassing or upsetting to me or my partner?
Condoms are among the most easily available and reliable forms of protection against unplanned pregnancy and most STIs.
Free condoms are available on campus and are located at various locations, including:
- CSU Health and Medical Center
Visit the American Social Health Association Website for detailed instructions on how to use a condom.
If your condom was compromised or not used, visit the National Women’s Health Information Center Website for the most up to date information regarding Emergency Contraception.
For some answers to frequently asked questions, please visit our Women’s Care page.
- STD and STI are used interchangeably and overall mean the same thing. STD=sexually transmitted disease, STI=sexually transmitted infection. With an infection you often don’t have symptoms and require testing to determine if you have one.
How do I get a STD/STI?
- Vaginal, oral or anal intercourse can lead to infections. Also the touching of genitals without penetration can lead to infections.
What are the most common STD/STIs?
- Human papilloma virus (HPV): The most common STI in the United States. It is easily spread by skin to skin contact and sexual activity. There are many strains of HPV. Some strains can cause genital warts, other strains can cause women to develop abnormal pap smears and puts them at risk for cervical cancer. In men HPV infection increases the risk of penile cancer. There is no cure for HPV. A great way to help prevent contracting HPV is to be vaccinated. The vaccine is called Gardasil and is for men (ages 9-21) and women (ages 9-26).
- Chlamydia: A bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics.
- Gonorrhea: A bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics.
- Herpes: A viral infection. There is no cure but there are medications available to manage symptoms.
- Syphilis: A bacterial infection.
- HIV: A viral infection, there is no cure but there are treatments available.
- Hepatitis B: A viral infection, there is no cure but treatments are available.
- Hepatitis C: A viral infection, there is no cure but treatments are available.
How can I prevent an STI/STD?
- Using barrier methods (external or internal condoms) with all sexual encounters. Using a dental dam when performing oral sex (mouth to vagina or anus). Limiting the number of sexual partners.
- Learn about free condom availability to CSU students.
How soon after sex can I be tested for STD/STI?
- The two most common STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be effectively tested for 14 days after sexual contact. If you have sexual contact and get tested less than two weeks afterwards, it is possible that the test will show a positive result, but a negative result isn’t reliable.
- If you want to get tested for HIV or for hepatitis, you must wait a longer amount of time before the test will be accurate. Waiting 6 weeks to 3 months is considered a safe amount of time. Syphilis screening can be done 1 week to 3 months after potential exposure.
Who should be tested?
- Generally, anyone who has had sexual contact with another person, regardless of the partner’s gender should be tested for STIs.
- Sexual contact includes genital skin-to-skin contact, intimate body fluid contact, and/or genital, anal, or oral contact.
- Remember that many STIs cause no symptoms, so feeling fine does not mean you are free from STIs. Consistent condom use can decrease the chance of acquiring an STI, but cannot protect completely against all STIs.
How would I know if my partner has an STI?
- You may not know if your partner is infected. Many infections cause no symptoms (your partner(s) may not know that they have an infection either).
- Some common symptoms could include (but are not limited to): pain with urination or frequent urination, pain in the genital area or lower abdomen, unusual vaginal, urethral, or anal discharge, new sores or bumps, or bleeding or pain with intercourse.
What kinds of tests are available from the CSU Health Network?
- At the CSU Health Network, you can be tested for:
- Hepatitis A, B, and C
- Many other, less common tests can also be arranged
How long will it take to get the test results from the CSU Health Network?
- Some STIs are diagnosed through tests that are sent to an outside lab. Receiving those results may take up to 14 days, depending on the test.
- Test results are sent to you by secure messaging and/or telephone.
What will it cost to be tested?
- For a list of current charges for STI testing, see our CSU Health Network STI Test List, under Laboratory Services.
Is there a way to be tested for all STIs?
- The short answer is “no,” usually not at one visit.
- STIs reveal themselves in different ways and at different times. Some are diagnosed visually, and may not appear for many months.
- The most reliable STI testing will be possible when a person is educated about STIs, acknowledges their own risks, and has ongoing good communication with their health care provider.
Which STIs are curable?
- STIs that are caused by bacteria, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, are most easily curable.
- Some STIs are caused by viruses. These are not usually curable, but are treatable.
What should I expect at an appointment for testing?
- You will be asked personal questions about your medical and sexual history to help determine your STI risks and concerns.
- STI testing is individualized. Your answers are kept confidential. This information is important because tests are often time sensitive, and are most accurate when done after or within certain time intervals. You can view our CSU Health Network STI Test List, under Laboratory Services, for details.
- With your consent, a physical exam can also be done. For females this will involve a pelvic exam, and for males, most often a brief exam of the genitals.
- Let your provider know if you have symptoms or issues that concern you before he or she does the exam. The physical exam helps diagnose STIs that do not show up on other tests. For females, although a pelvic exam is done, a pap smear is not always done at an appointment to check for STIs. A female may, however, opt to have some STI testing done at the time of a scheduled pap smear.
- You may be asked to leave a urine sample, and/or a culture may be done with a swab, and/or you may also wish to have blood work done.
- There may be brief discussion about how to reduce your risks for STIs.
- There may be some charges for labs or medicines. Your care provider should let you know which services my require additional charges, but be sure to ask if you have questions. CSU Health Network can bill your health insurance company, or you can pay for those services.
How do I make an appointment?
- To schedule your personalized clinical consultation, please call CSU Health Network at (970) 491-7121.
- Your out-of-pocket cost will be dependent on your health insurance plan benefits. For the most updated information about charges for STI testing, call the CSU Health Network at (970) 491-7121.
- The CSU Health Network provides you with access to sexual health education and counseling that can reduce your risk of contracting HIV and other STIs as well as reduce the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy.
- CSU Health Network Medical Services
- To schedule your personalized clinical consultation, please call the Women’s Clinic at (970) 491-1754 or for Men’s Health appointments, (970) 491-7121.
- For a list of STI tests available at the CSU Health Network, view our CSU Health Network STI Test List, under Laboratory Services.
- CSU Health Network Counseling Services
- Call (970) 491-7121 to schedule an appointment with counseling services.
- CSU Health Network Health Education and Prevention Services
- The CSU Health Network Health Education and Prevention Services offer a variety of sexual health resources, including free condoms. Call (970) 491-7121 for more information.
BeforePlay provides more information on how to protect yourself, talk to your partner(s) and parents, what to do if you have an STD/STI, and much more.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the latest and most credible information regarding sexual and reproductive health. This center is recognized as the lead federal agency for protecting the health and safety of people at home and abroad, providing information to enhance health decisions and promoting health through strong partnerships.
Go Ask Alice is a Q & A database that houses numerous sexual health-related questions and answers. Alice is produced by Columbia University’s Health Education Program.
National Women’s Health Information Center provides information on women’s health issues and specifically on how and when to get emergency contraceptives.
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