Peer Health

Contraception and Prevention of STDs

Sexual intimacy does not necessarily include sexual intercourse. In deciding whether to engage in intimate sexual relations, including intercourse, you may consider cultural, ethical, religious, moral, and psychological factors as well physical ones. Many people choose to abstain from sexual intercourse. People may choose varying levels of sexual intimacy. You should not feel pressured to engage in sexual intercourse or any other sexual activity; what is right for you is the level of sexual intimacy with which you feel comfortable, whether than means none, holding hands, intercourse, or any of a mind-boggling variety of other forms of sexual activity.

Deciding to become sexually intimate with a partner can be a big step to take in a relationship, especially since, for many people, having sex involves an emotional commitment as well as a physical one. The decision to become sexually intimate with another person must also be considered in light of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that are prevalent among college students; many times infections may be asymptomatic, so someone may transmit the disease to another person unknowingly.

Becoming pregnant is also a fear in heterosexual relationships. Only a barrier method, like condoms or dental dams, can reduce the likelihood of the transmission of HIV and certain other STDs. Abstinence is the only completely effective method of preventing STDs, HIV and pregnancy. If you do choose to be sexually active, practicing safer sex, along with maintaining open communication with your partner, can reduce the risks discussed here. Engaging in sexual intercourse can potentially be scary or dangerous; discussing both the emotional and physical risks of sex and deciding with your partner how best to minimize those risks can be empowering and can make for an even more intimate sexual experience.

Practicing safer sex doesn’t mean eliminating sex from your life. What safer sex does mean is being smart and staying healthy. It means showing love, concern, and respect for partners and for self. Safer sex means enjoying sex to the fullest without transmitting, or acquiring, sexually related infections. There are numerous sexually transmissible diseases; the consequences of some, like HIV and syphilis, may be deadly. All of them are caused by microorganisms which pass between partners during particular sexual activities. Safer sex means reducing the chance of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Deciding on a Method of Contraception


Since there is no perfect method, all choices involving birth control and/or Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) prevention are compromises. People engaging in heterosexual intercourse will likely choose to try to combine both contraceptive (birth control) effectiveness and STD/HIV prevention. When performing homosexual sex, the primary concern will be STD/HIV protection. There are a number of questions which should be considered when making a decision about a particular method:

  • Is this method right for me? Why or why not?
  • Am I comfortable with my ability to use it the right way?
  • Does this method protect against STD/HIV transmission?
  • How much money can I afford to spend on contraceptive and/or protective methods?
  • Am I comfortable touching my body in the way that the use of this method requires me to?
  • Will I feel shy or embarrassed about using this method?
  • Is this a first or new relationship?
  • Do I plan to have more than one relationship at a time? Does my partner?

All contraceptive and protective methods have their advantages and disadvantages. An understanding of these advantages and disadvantages is key to informed decision making. The gynecologists and nurses at the Health Center, the College’s Health Educator and the members of Peer Health are good sources of information here on campus.

Effectiveness is one of the things to consider when choosing a birth control method. It is important to keep in mind that the “best” method for an individual and her or his partner depends on which method the couple will use consistently and properly. All effectiveness rates are based on the first year a couple uses a contraceptive method. Highest expected rates are the effectiveness found for uses of the method if used consistently and correctly. Typical used effectiveness rates are based on studies of average couples and take into account how well they use a method and how motivated they are to avoid pregnancy.

Choosing a method for contraception and/or STD prevention at this time does not mean it becomes a permanent method for the duration of your sexual life. The method which is right for a person at a given point in her or his life may evolve along with a changing body, personal preferences, needs, relationships and reproductive technology.