University life is a time of learning and experimentation. Sex is just one part of that. But, what does a healthy sex life look like and how do you maintain your sexual health while still having fun?
Whether you are sexually active or not, it's always best to be prepared and have all of the information. Whether you're talking to your partner, your doctor or you're just keen to learn more, here's a good starting point. For more info or to ask a sexual health nurse a question, visit play safe.
Sex, love or intimacy?
Sex isn’t for everyone or every relationship, it’s something you choose when you’re ready. There are loads of different reasons to have sex, it can be because you love someone or for a bit of fun. But sex doesn't always equal intimacy and you can be intimate with someone without having sex.
The important thing is that sex is consensual, it’s something you both want to do – every time. And if you don’t want to have sex, you don’t have to. Even if you said you wanted to and then it doesn’t feel right. You can stop being sexually intimate at any point and that’s okay. You can also say yes to some things and not others and that’s okay too.
If you feel pressured, forced or coerced into having sex of any kind or you are substantially influenced by drugs or alcohol and cannot give consent, this type of sex is not okay and can be considered sexual assault. Learn more here.
Sex is not the same for everyone
Our gender and sexual preferences differ, the way we have sex, who we have it with and how many partners we have are all different. So, this means our sexual health needs differ.
For more information on sexual diversity and sexual health services specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community check out ACON.
Gender and sexual differences are welcome by the UNSW community and the University aims to provide an inclusive environment. Learn more about this here.
We also encourage you to reach out to the different student communities including the Queer Collective, Rainbow International, for International students who identify as LGBTQ+ and the Women’s Collective.
How to have safe sex - a guide to contraception
The two most important factors in safe sex are;
- Making sure it’s consensual
- Using contraception
Condoms significantly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) transmission during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. When used correctly every time you have vaginal sex, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. They are the only form of contraception that prevents both pregnancy and STI’s.
Free condoms are available in the University Health Service and in the John Goodsell Building (Kensington Campus) or can be purchased at the UNSW pharmacy and the IGA.
Female condoms are an alternative to the male condom and are worn inside of the vagina as a form of contraception and to prevent STIs. For more information about female condoms, please refer to Family Planning NSW.
A dental dam is a thin, flexible piece of latex that protects against direct mouth to genital contact during oral sex. Using a dental dam will reduce your risk of contracting a STI while still allowing for a pleasurable experience.
Female condoms and dental dams can be purchased online from Condom Sales AU.
Other contraception (the pill, IUD etc.)
Using contraception can reduce the risk of pregnancy, but doesn’t protect against STI’s.
To learn more about contraception click here.
What to do if you've had unsafe sex
Your first instinct might be to panic. Try not to.
- Get an STI check as soon as possible – learn more about STI checks here
- If you’re female, head to the closest pharmacy and ask for emergency contraception (the morning after pill), to avoid an unwanted pregnancy
There are two types of emergency contraception available in Australia. One can be used within 72 hours of sex (up to three days afterwards) and the other is a new type that can be used up to 120 hours after sex (five days afterwards). You may be tempted to put it off but it's a good idea to take the morning after pill as soon as possible.
For more information about emergency contraception, please refer to Family Planning NSW – Emergency Contraception Fact Sheet.
Whether the pregnancy is planned or not, the realisation that you are pregnant can be overwhelming for anyone.
A decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy needs to be made as soon as possible.
Options are available and can be discussed with a doctor.
Unplanned pregnancies do happen, and you have the right to make your own decision.
If you wish to discuss your options with a doctor, please book an appointment at the University Health Service. You can call us on (02) 9385 5425.
For more information regarding your pregnancy options, please refer to Family Planning NSW
Did you know most sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are really common in young people?
Most don’t have symptoms, but they can have long term health consequences, including infertility. That’s why we recommend you get an STI check once a year if you’re sexually active, when you change sexual partners, or if you have unprotected sex or your condoms break.
STI testing is confidential, often quick and easy, and usually involves a simple urine test. Most STIs are easy to treat if they are diagnosed early. Find out more about how to get tested for STI's here.
Are you vaccinated against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)?
Vaccinations prevent some STIs such Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, and Hepatitis B, which is passed through infected bodily fluids. It's better to be vaccinated before you start having sex, but it's better late than never.
Vaccinations are available at UNSW Health Service - for more info, click here.
For more information about STI tests click here.
HIV, PrEP and PEP
Are you PrEP’ared?
PrEP, (pre-exposure prophalaxis) is a medication that prevents the transmission of HIV from a person who is HIV positive to a person who is HIV negative. It is often used in relationships where one partner is HIV positive and the other is not, or by people who have regular unprotected sex and want to avoid HIV.
Got a medicare card?
If you are an Australian resident with a current Medicare card you can access PrEP through the PBS at a subsidised cost. This means any doctor or general practitioner can write a script for PrEP that you can take to any pharmacy for collection. Keep in mind you may have to pay for your doctor’s visit if it’s not a bulk billing service.
Don't have a medicare card?
Different options are available including importing these from overseas.
For more information about accessing PrEP online visit PAN.
You may also be eligible to participate in MI-EPIC.
MI-EPIC is a study that allows HIV negative overseas-born people who are Medicare-ineligible and at risk of HIV to receive free HIV prevention medication. The study will provide participants with up to 12 months of free daily PrEP. The study is open to people who meet the eligibility criteria and are available to attend regular check-ups.
For more information, go to epic-nswstudy.org.au. Here you will also find contact details for participating clinics in Sydney and across NSW, and instructions on how to make an appointment with a doctor.
You can also call ACON on (02) 9206 2000 or the NSW PrEP Infoline on 1800 451 624 or go to here for information on other options for accessing PrEP.
Worried you have been exposed to HIV?
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication you can take within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex if you think you have been exposed to HIV. It is effective at preventing the transmission of HIV. More information about PEP.