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LETTER

Clarifications on “Sex@mit”

I want to thank Christina Roussel for her October 1 article, “Sex@mit.edu.” Educating students on topics such as contraception and safer sex practices is important in decision-making, in preventing unwanted pregnancy, and in preventing transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STDs). The physicians and nurse practitioners, in collaboration with the Health Education service at MIT Medical, are available to provide education and counseling on these and other topics to promote the health and wellness of MIT students.

Since I am credited for the information that Roussel included in her article (along with Dr. Howard Heller), I would like make a few clarifications. Providing the most accurate information is our priority.

* Nonoxynol-9 is a spermicide that can be used with a condom to increase its birth-control effectiveness. Condoms with nonxynol-9 are available through MIT Medical, Health Education, or the MIT Medical pharmacy.

* Condoms are 99 percent effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections, but less effective in preventing pregnancy (88 percent in typical use). However, when condoms are used consistently and correctly, in combination with a spermicide, they are highly effective against transmission of STDs and in preventing unwanted pregnancy.

* Latex condoms are the most effective condoms for preventing HIV transmission; however, clinical trials suggest that polyurethane condoms can help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, when compared to unprotected sex.

* In typical use, diaphragms plus spermicide can be 85 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Physicians and nurse practitioners at MIT Medical can prescribe a diaphragm that fits a woman correctly.

* The most common side effect of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection is irregular vaginal bleeding. This side effect is the most common reason that women discontinue using Depo-Provera.

* Post-coital contraception, also known as the “morning after pill,” is 75 percent effective if taken within 72 hours after intercourse. The “morning after pill” is available through Urgent Care, as well as through doctors and nurse practitioners in Internal Medicine, OB/GYN, and Pediatrics.

* Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, can cause warts. The genital warts associated with HPV can be easily treated; however, HPV cannot be cured.

* PAP smears detect celluar changes of the cervix, which can provide early detection of things like cervical cancer. PAP smears do not identify STDs. Women should have annual pelvic exams and PAP smears beginning around age 18 years or when they become sexually active, whichever comes first. STD testing will be individualized for each woman based on her history and annual physical exam.

* A person may test negative for 3-6 months after being infected with HIV.

* If you have been raped, contact MIT Medical or go to the Beth Israel Deaconess Emergency Room, where specially trained staff of the rape-crisis center can provide complete physical care, counseling, and appropriate follow up. You should also report the rape to the MIT Campus Police, where specially trained officers can help.


Laureen Gray