When you are in primary school, you make the discovery that when a mummy and daddy love each other very much, they have a special cuddle and miraculously a baby appears. This rather limited explanation gathers little specks of information over the years to build a considerably more detailed run down of exactly what’s involved in sexual intercourse. It’s not always mummies and daddies, and they don’t always make a baby. They also leave out the unpleasant Chlamydia business until a bit later on.
Sex is a lot more complicated than the cartoons we watched in Year Six. At university you would expect that everyone was a little more knowledgeable about the dangers of unprotected sex, being that little bit older and also having access to more information. However, despite the fact that free condoms are readily available, the contraceptive pill is free from your local GP and you can have a Chlamydia test taken in a club toilet for a pair of sunglasses, STIs and teenage pregnancy are still on the rise. While most people are seemingly aware of the general concept of STIs, there is still a lot which, on the whole, young people do not know. We are lulled into a sense of knowing everything and we become almost complacent with that dangerous attitude of, ‘It won’t happen to me’. It needs to be more widely known that you don’t need to have a constant stream of sexual partners to catch an STI and that yes, it could happen to you.
The scary fact is that as young people under the age of 25, we are statistically most likely to get Chlamydia. Chlamydia is now the most commonly diagnosed STI in the UK, which would suggest that people just aren’t being careful enough. But it seems that when we read this statistic we still shrug it off, thinking, ‘Well, that’s clearly those people you see on those documentaries on Channel 4.’ Not so. I find it strange that in this day and age girls and boys alike feel that if they are carrying condoms on a night out they look like they’re just out looking for sex. While sometimes this does happen to be the case, this idea needs to be dispelled because in a drunken state you’re a lot less inclined to be sensible and just refuse the offer when neither of you have a condom to hand. Also, the fact that many girls of the ‘under 25’ age group choose to take the contraceptive pill is great for preventing unwanted pregnancy, but arguably not so for STIs. It is possible that in the knowledge that you or your partner are not going to get pregnant, you might be a little less insistent about using a condom. The issue of asking about someone’s sexual history can seem a bit daunting, but if for example a girl is on the pill, then you need to know if having sex without a condom is a good idea.
There is also this view these days that there is a quick fix for everything. If your sink leaks, you call out a plumber, if you urgently need to settle a Scrubs-based debate, you Google it and its resolved. However, Chlamydia, for example, is virtually symptomless in women, but can leave them infertile if left untreated. If a man contracts gonorrhoea and leaves it untreated it could potentially cause an infection in the testicles, and possibly decrease his fertility. But, on the bright side, if found out early it is easily treated. This speaks volumes about the importance of being tested if you have any reason to think you might have an STD. It’s obvious that the unpleasantness of being tested is nothing compared to the unpleasantness of a thick green or yellow discharge. However, the effects of contracting HIV from unprotected sex cannot be solved easily, although there are treatments that allow people who have HIV to live relatively normal lives, there isn’t yet a cure. This is something that surely can not be taken lightly when considering unprotected sex.
Essentially, although we are no longer giggling away at a video which features a family strolling around naked, we need to realise that we don’t know as much about sexual health as we think. It is good that the subject has become more mainstream, but equally it should not cause us to become complacent. Ultimately, we all need to be aware, for ourselves and our sexual partners, because despite what you might think, it could happen to anyone.