University has begun, which for many people means more procrastinating, more drinking, and more fucking. For others, it means getting back to Elim Church and trying to be wholesome in New Zealand’s city of sin.
The combination of drinking and fucking massively increases the risk of three things: STIs, unplanned pregnancies, and sexual assault. Sexual assault is outside of my area of expertise, and is too important to be half-assed in a Critic science column, so we’ll focus on the first two.
The most common STIs in New Zealand are chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Both are bacterial infections, and are easily spread through sexual contact. Both cause unpleasant discharge, itching, genital pain, and urinary pain. Both infections can be asymptomatic, or “silent”; people can carry and spread these STIs despite experiencing no symptoms. If untreated, both can cause damage to the reproductive tract and/or fertility issues later in life (though don’t use them as a form of contraception!). Both are very treatable with antibiotics, although chlamydia is becoming increasingly drug-resistant.
Other STIs of note are syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV), human papilloma virus (HPV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Syphilis is bacterial, and causes a painless genital ulcer, but it can spread to cause issues in other organs. It is very treatable with antibiotics. HSV can cause painful genital ulcers, HPV can cause genital warts, cervical, penile, and throat cancers, and HIV can lead to AIDS and death. HSV, HPV, and HIV are all untreatable. They can only be prevented by barrier contraception methods, i.e. male or female condoms.
Condoms are also great for preventing pregnancy! Like an STI in its own right, pregnancy can be very painful and uncomfortable, and can increase risk of other health issues (such as blood clots or high blood pressure). Pregnancies can only be ended by termination, and due to some legislative quirks in New Zealand, terminations aren’t as easy to access as Jared from Elim would like you to believe. Becoming pregnant when wanting a baby is one thing, but forcing pregnancy upon someone is deeply unfair. As well as condoms, pregnancies can be easily prevented by the reliable use of hormonal contraceptives.
Otago’s problematic relationship with alcohol and sex is not going to go away overnight. But using condoms can easily prevent some of the bad outcomes from that relationship. There is also no shame in going to a doctor if you have any concerns about STIs or pregnancy. Don’t be a dick, and make sure to spread only love!