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During college, we make a lot of really important decisions about our sexuality and relationships. Some of the decisions me make - including whether to abstain from sex or be sexually active, what kinds of contraception to use, and who choose as our partners – can have effects on the rest of our lives. It’s a good idea to be knowledgeable and prepared to make these decisions.

Here are some things you need to know before heading back to college or hitting the quad for the first time.

Know How to Stay Protected

Does your college have a place you can get condoms on campus? Most do, usually at a student health clinic somewhere on campus. If there’s nowhere on campus, find a nearby health department, free clinic or Planned Parenthood health center. They should be able to hook you up.

Remember, a wallet or purse is not the friendliest place for condoms. Check the packaging, don’t keep them for to long, and avoid keeping them in hot places. It can break down the latex and increase the chance of them breaking. Definitely don’t keep them in your car!

Know How to Birth Control Options

If you plan on becoming sexually active have a plan and know where you can go on or off campus to learn more about contraception options. You may also want to research a contraception method that is best for you to prevent unintended pregnancy.

Some of the most effective options are long term contraceptives like the IUD. These are particularly good for college students with hectic irregular schedules where missing a pill is way too easy.

Know Where to Get Tested

While college aged people make up only one fourth of sexually active population, nearly half of the 20 million new STDs diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15–24 years, and one in four new HIV infections are among youth ages 13 to 24 years.

Even if you’re using condoms every time, there is still a small risk of infection. But the good news is, getting tested is usually quick, easy, and painless. And STDs can be cured or treated with medication.

Getting tested is as simple as calling in to make an appointment at your college’s health clinic, your doctor’s office when you’re home on break, at a health department clinic, or a nearby Planned Parenthood. Many campus health centers offer students free STD testing on a regular basis, so check out their website or make a trip over there to find out the deal.

Know Your Partner(s)

Whether it’s a one-time thing or a really serious relationship, we won’t judge. But either way, you need to have an open and ongoing conversation with your partner about safe sex practices that includes intercourse, contraception, condom use, and oral sex. Consent is key to any healthy relationship, whatever form it takes so know you boundaries and your partners boundaries.

You also want to know when your partner was last tested for STDs. STDs don’t usually have any symptoms. So, the only way to know for sure if you or a partner has an STD is to get tested.

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Birds. Bees. Bodies.

a Sexual Health Education and Reproductive Health Blog

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