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Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Light Rain Fog/Mist and Breezy - Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Sex Life

By Cristina Roussel

The key to having safer sex -- if you choose to engage in sex -- is to inform yourself. Here are some helpful facts to help you have safer sex:

1. Dental dams can be used for safer cunnilingus (oral sex with vagina) and anilingus (oral sex with anus). They can be bought at pharmacies. Saran Wrap can be used instead, as well as a condom cut down the side.

There are many ways to to prevent the transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) and many different forms of birth control.

2. Nonoxynol-9 is a spermicide that can be used with a condom to increase its birth control effectiveness. MIT-provided condoms are not coated with nonoxynol-9.

3. The correct way to use a condom: Check the expiration date (those things can be in guys wallets for years before they actually use them). Open the package slowly (preferably not using your teeth) and look for damage (i.e.tears/holes). Press the air out of the reservoir tip and unroll over the penis all the way to the base. Failure to take the air out can cause rupture due to excessive pressure on the tip. Condoms are 99 percent effective if they are used correctly.

MIT provides condoms for students -- they are available in all dormitories, the MIT Medical Center, and MedSTOP. MedSTOP is a self-service section located on the 5th floor of the student center which has condoms as well as informative pamphlets on STDs and AIDS.

Only latex condoms are effective in preventing HIV transmission. Polyurethane and animal skin condoms are not. Water-based lubricants applied to the condom and inside of the vagina (or rectum) can help prevent a condom from breaking.

5. If the guy refuses to wear a condom women have a lot of options. There are female condoms, which are available without a prescription. They are made of poly-urethane and can be used for those who have latex allergies. They cost about $12 for three and they are for one time use.

Diaphragms must be prescribed by a doctor and used with spermicide gel. They are 85 percent effective. A smaller device, called a cervical cap can be left in longer and provides the same protection.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are another form of birth control, but they do not protect against STDs. IUDs are medically inserted and effective for several years. However, this form of birth control is not recommended for young women because they can cause infection, which can lead to infertility.

Depo-provera is a hormone shot given every three months that prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation. It is 99.7 percent effective. Side effects include weight gain, osteoporosis, hair loss, and the appearance of male features (i.e. facial hair growth)

6. Drink responsibly: In a Fenway Community health study, gay males were tested every six months for AIDs and STDs. The ones who had contracted diseases had been ones that had made unwise decisions after having alcohol.

7. If you have unprotected sex and are worried about becoming pregnant, post-coital contraception can be used. Also known as the “morning after” pill, this is 75 percent effective if taken within the first day after sexual intercourse. They are available at urgent care of the medical department. Side effects include nausea and bleeding between menstruation periods. This form of birth control should be a last resort.

8. If you are not sure if you or your partner have AIDs or an STD, get tested. MIT Medical provides testing for STDs and AIDs, as well as counseling. It is better to be safe than sorry.

This information was provided by Laureen Gray and Howard Heller. Heller and Gray run “Safer-Sex Jeopardy” in which they use the format of the game show jeopardy to test participants’ knowledge and facilitate discussion about safe-sex issues. Gray is the director of nursing at MIT medical.

Heller is an internist at MIT medical. She previously worked in the STD clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. Heller points out that many times people who have contracted an STD have a tougher time dealing psychologically with the problem then with the physical problems.

“Everyone has HIV on the brain, but the incidence of HIV is relatively low among your age group,” Heller said.

The most common STD on campus and in the nation is the Papillomavirus. This STD is transmitted through skin to skin contact. It can cause warts, as well as lead to cervical and anal cancer, depending on the strain.

This STD is easily treated, however there is no practical way to know if you are infected and thus the disease is so easily transmitted. Many people give it to their partners without even knowing they have it.

Herpes is the second most common STD and Chlamydia is the third most common. In women, Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Eighty percent of women infected don’t have symptoms. All women should have annual pap smears to check for STDs and other non-sex related diseases.

Fact: A person infected with HIV for less than 3 months will test negative. The only 100 percent effective and reversible method of birth control and protection from the transmission of STDs is abstinence. Not everyone is having sex and sex is not right for everyone. Make sure to communicate to your partner your boundaries.

If you are raped, or feel as if you have been raped, you should report it to the campus police and go to MIT medical as soon as possible. They can make help prevent pregnancy, test for STDs and AIDS, and offer counseling and support.