Rachel from the Student Wellbeing Team talks about STIs, safe sex, sexual consent and the support available for you in Cardiff…
We all have different thoughts and feelings about sex because it means different things to different people. As a student, being at university can provide more opportunities to have sex and explore your sexuality – however, it’s important not to feel pressured into anything that you feel uncomfortable with.
We want to raise awareness about sex-related issues, sexual consent and STIs. We also want to let you know where to get support- whether you need support with your health, or just someone to speak to.
Take the Sextember Challenge…
The Sextember Challenge is a campaign which encourages sexually active people to undertake regular check-ups and to talk about sex with health professionals, family and friends.
To complete the challenge, follow these five steps:
1. Find out where your nearest sexual health clinics are
A sexual health check-up can help put your mind at ease if you’ve had unprotected sex and you are unsure about whether you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or that you may be pregnant. An STI can be passed on to one person from another through unprotected sex or genital contact. Whether you think you may have an STI, you’re not sure or even if you don’t think you do, it’s good to get regular sexual health check-ups.
Each STI has different symptoms and some STIs, for example chlamydia, often have no symptoms at all. With genital warts or genital herpes, you may notice some symptoms of itching or redness and with gonorrhoea you may experience a burning sensation when you urinate, lower abdominal pains or a vaginal discharge. If you have had unprotected sex, whether it’s from a one night stand or if you are in a relationship, you may have an STI without even knowing.
The most common misconception about STI’s is that they are dirty or shameful. Catching an STI is the sexual equivalent of catching a cold, and though you should take more precautions in the future through using a condom – you should not feel ashamed about going for an STI check. Going for a check-up is responsible, so don’t ever feel ashamed for safeguarding your sexual health.
For more information about different types of STI’s and the symptoms, please visit the NHS website.
There are a number of sexual health clinics around Cardiff. For a timetable of the clinics available and to find one that is nearest to you, click here.
2. Get a sexual health check up at the clinic
We understand it can be daunting and may feel embarrassing to visit a sexual health clinic, particularly if you aren’t sure where to go or what to expect when you arrive.
Staff at Sexual Health Clinics understand that it can be scary to talk about sex and to get tested for an STI and they will be non-judgemental, supportive and confidential. In fact, getting tested and treated for an STI is straightforward. It will involve meeting a doctor or nurse who will ask for your medical and sexual history.
You may need to take a urine and blood test and possibly have an examination which can be nerve-wracking, but please know that you won’t be forced to answer questions or do anything that you feel uncomfortable with.
For more information about what to expect when visiting a sexual health clinic, click here
To have a sexual health check-up, make an appointment by contacting the Department of Sexual Health on 02920 335 208 or 02920 335 355 between 8:30am-5pm Monday to Friday.
3. Get some condoms for you or a friend
Safe sex to protect you from STIs means wearing a condom! If you are a female on contraception, this only serves to protect you from pregnancy and not STIs. Whether you are male or female, it’s a good idea to carry a condom with you in a purse or wallet. Carrying a condom is responsible and shows you care about your sexual health.
For FREE Durex condoms, sign up to C-card Scheme! The YMCA c-card scheme is a co-ordinated free condom distribution scheme for young people up to the age of 25 years old, funded by Families First in Cardiff.
SHAG, Cardiff University’s Sexual Health Awareness Group, run C-card
Every Wednesday from 1-3pm at the Students’ Union.
The next C-card is on: Wednesday 28th September in Room 4E on the 4th Floor Students’ Union
Check out the YMCA website for more c-card points in Cardiff. Alternatively, we have two condom dispensers in the Students’ Union, one by the entrance to Y Plas and one in reception, and one in the Heath by the IV lounge.
4. Have an open discussion with a friend or partner about sex
Talking about sex and issues relating to sex can feel uncomfortable or embarrassing even if it is with someone we trust like our partner or a friend. We encourage having open discussions with friends and your partner about sex, including talking about your fantasies or your concerns. Talking about sex also means ensuring that both parties in a sexual relationship consent to sex each time.
Would you like a cup of tea?
Sexual consent is as simple as a cup of tea! Not sure what we mean?!
We would encourage you to watch the video above or read this fantastic post by blogger Emmeline May to see how simple sexual consent is to understand!
Sexual consent is when people agree to participate in sexual activity of their own free will and it’s an ongoing process in any sexual relationship.
Consenting sex can only happen if people are free and able to make a choice about sex. This means that it someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for example, or if they are asleep, they are unable to consent to sex. If someone says they want to engage in sexual activity, they also have the right to change their mind.
If you are uncertain about whether someone wants to have sex, check in with them – ask, listen and respect their choice. If someone is passive and doesn’t say no, then this doesn’t mean it is a yes. If someone is extremely quiet for example or says that they are tired, these could be signs that it’s a no. Engaging in sexual activity with someone without their consent is sexual assault and is a crime.
If you feel that you have been forced to have sex without your consent, please talk to someone you can trust such as friend, tutor or a counsellor. Alternatively you can contact Rape Crisis for information and support.
For more detailed information about sexual consent including ways of saying no and how to determine if someone is saying no, please read our Sexual Consent Blog by Amy from the Student Wellbeing Team.
5. Check out all the information on the NHS webpages
And finally… stay safe!
It’s an unfortunate fact that sexual assaults do take place , so it’s important to take precautions to keep yourself safe. You should:
- Stick to well-lit areas at night time
- Walk home with friends
- Carry a personal alarm (you can pick these up free from the Security Centre on Park Place)
Cardiff University Support
SHAG is your student-led service committed to increasing awareness and understanding of sexual health issues. Student volunteers work closely with Cardiff University Students’ Union and various sexual health organisations to deliver accurate information to all students.
Contacting Counselling, Health and Wellbeing
If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday to Friday
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Therapeutic Groups
- Wellbeing Champion Support
- Self-help resources
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and Facebook.
Rachel, Wellbeing Practitioner, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.