An Epigram survey of 241 students at the University of Bristol sought to uncover the realities of sexual health in university life.
We probed students from a range of year groups, sexualities and gender identities and discovered that 62.2 percent of students have been tested for an STI since arriving at university. However only 1 in 10 students revealed they had actually caught an STI – with only 11.7 percent receiving medical treatment for an STI.
STIs – an acronym for Sexually Transmitted Infections – are spread through unprotected sex and genital contact, especially vaginal intercourse, anal sex and oral sex. The most common STI among Bristol students is chlamydia – a disease which tends to be symptom-less but can cause infertility in those affected – with over 30 percent of those surveyed claiming they have had chlamydia at one time during their university education. Although not technically STIs, thrush and UTIs can manifest after sex, and an overwhelming 58 percent of respondents noted they have been affected by one of these infections.
There are a variety of factors that can put someone at risk of STIs, such as unprotected sex – an activity undertaken by 62.7 percent of those taking Epigram’s survey. STIs tend to spread among campus communities due to the prevalence of casual sex and one-night stands, with a whopping 95.2 percent of students saying they have had this kind of sexual encounter in comparison to 2 in 5 respondents who have had sex within the parameters of a relationship. Whatever kind of sex you are participating in, the sexual health service Unity highly recommends you use protection – such as male or female condoms, among other alternatives – unless your partner is someone you trust.
68.7 percent of those who said they had sex knowing they had an STI said their partner was not aware of their infection and thus of the risk to their own sexual health. In relation to this, almost 3 percent noted their sexual partner has previously lied about wearing/using protection. Furthermore, the influence of drugs or alcohol may also put you at risk of STIs as 30.4 percent claimed their altered state has predisposed their decision to not use contraception or protection.
Epigram also wanted to investigate students’ attitudes to and experiences with the University’s sexual health services, currently located at Hampton House. Just over half of students have sought help regarding their sexual health at University, however 45.9 percent of these students favoured external services, such as the NHS, over the University’s services. This may be because over half of students are unsure of or do not know what support is available to them if they were concerned about their sexual health.
However, those who had used the University’s sexual health services tended to rate them highly, with 42 percent giving them a helpfulness rating of 7-10 as opposed to the 30.3 percent who rated them with a helpfulness score of 1-4. However, those who rated the service poorly have called it ‘severely underfunded and therefore…completely unhelpful’.
Students also voiced their concern about the University’s role in sex education. One anonymous student wrote, ‘There is hardly any thought/advice for LGBT+ people, especially women who have sex with women and trans people. We still have sex, we still need services that are aware of specific issues or concerns.’ Many students also voiced demands for free condoms readily available to students, especially during Freshers’ Week when excitement is at its peak.
With over half of students admitting to getting frisky in the past week, sex clearly is a sizable member of our campus concerns – with many seeing sexual health as an important conversation coming into the forefront of our pillow talk.
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