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Sexual Health

The World Health Organization describes sexual health as “a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. The majority of NYU students are sexually active, and college is a time when many young people first become sexually active. Students frequently enter college without adequate sexual health knowledge, and, subsequently, they often engage in sexual behaviors that place them at increased risk for unintended health outcomes such as pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is crucial to enhance sexual health resources to improve students’ sexual health, increase safer sex behaviors, and reduce STI and HIV transmission.


Key Facts

  • 64.7% of NYU students reported engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse within the last 12 months.1
  • In 2009, there were 48,100 new HIV cases in the United States, with 19.7% occurring in young people age 15 to 24.2
  • Although young people ages 15 to 24 represent 25% of the sexually experienced population, this age group accounts for nearly 50% of all new STIs, totaling about 9 million cases in 2008.3
  • Over 1.2 million cases of chlamydia were reported in 2008, the most since record keeping for the disease began and the highest number of cases for any STI required to be reported by physicians.3
  • 20 to 24-year-olds are significantly more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than women aged 19 or younger.4
  • STI rates are twice as common among 20 to 24-year-olds as 15 to 19-year-olds (7 v. 3%).5
  • Many young people misperceive their vulnerability to infection, which can affect
    decisions around sexual behavior.6

Suggestions for Parents and Families

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to help increase your student’s sexual health knowledge and better manage his or her engagement in healthy sexual behaviors.

Open and on-going communication. Talk to your student about how they are doing on a regular basis. While student’s increased independence and desire to make his or her own decisions, parents and families often continue to be trusted advisors. This provides a great opportunity to offer guidance and share values in an open, non-judgmental climate.20

Talk to your student about sexual decision-making.  Ask your student in a nonjudgmental way about his or her feelings, attitudes, and knowledge about sex. Let your student know that you are there to support him/her in whatever he/she decides about sexual activity, and offer to help if he/she has any questions, needs more information, or would like to see a health care provider.

Be knowledgeable about NYU’s sexual health services for students and able to refer them to the appropriate resources when necessary. Visit the NYU Student Health Center website or review the Sexual Health Resource Guide available to students.

Facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health care on campus. Make sure your student understands their insurance coverage benefits, knows their personal and family medical history, has a medical provider close to campus, and understands how and when to access services.

Make sure your student knows the facts! Inform your student about what kinds of intimate contact can transmit sexually transmitted infections. Check out the NYU Student Health Center and CDC websites (and refer your student to them) for STI facts.

Encourage your student to talk with his partner about safe sex practices before engaging in sexual activity. Inform your student about what kinds of intimate contact can transmit sexually transmitted infections/HIV, and talk to your student about birth control, safer sex, and how to protect him or herself.

Encourage your student to get recommended screenings and check-ups. Even if your student is healthy, it is important for your student to be up to date with recommended screenings, exams, and vaccines.


sexual health indicators


a) HIV Testing

  • Data Source: ACHA #39F
  • Survey Question: Have you ever been tested for HIV infection?
  • Definition: proportion of students responding yes

b) Annual incidence of chlamydia, age 24 and under

  • Data Source: ACHA #41A6
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, have you been diagnosed or treated by a profession for the following: Chlamydia?
  • Definition: rate per 10,000 of students 24 and under who endorsed “yes”

c) Always use condoms or other protective barrier during vaginal intercourse

  • Data Source: ACHA # 22B
  • Survey Question: Within the last 30 days, how often did you or your partner(s) use a condom or other protective barrier during vaginal intercourse?
  • Definition: proportion of students engaging in vaginal intercourse (within the last 30 days) reported “always” using protective barrier

d) Always use condoms or other protective barrier during anal intercourse

  • Data Source: ACHA # 22C
  • Survey Question: Within the last 30 days, how often did you or your partner(s) use a condom or other protective barrier during anal intercourse?
  • Definition: proportion of students engaging in anal intercourse (within the past 30 days) reported “always” using protective barrier

  1. American College Health Association. (2009). American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment II: New York University Executive Summary Spring 2009. Hanover, MD: Author.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, September). Diagnoses of HIV Infection and AIDS in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2009. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, Novem ber). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Finer, L.B., Henshaw, S.K. (2004.) Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001. Perspectives on Sex and Reproductive Health, 38, 90–6.
  5. Mosher, W.D., Chandra A., & Jones, J. (2004). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: men and women ages 15–44 years of age. Advance Data, 1–56.
  6. Academy for Educational Development. (2007). Summary of a review of the literature: Programs to promote chlamydia screening. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  7. Kirby, D. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 5(3), 18-27. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Sexual Health Education Does Lead to Safer Sexual Behaviour. Press release, October 22, 1997.
  8. National Prevention Council. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). National Prevention Strategy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of the Surgeon General.
  9. Davis, L., Arshad, U. (2010). Adolescent sexual health and the dynamics of oppression: A call for cultural competency. Issues at a Glance, Advocates for Youth.
  10. Lin, J.S., Whitlock, E., O’Connor, E., & Bauer, V. (2008). Behavioral counseling to prevent sexually transmitted infections: A systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(7), 497-508.
  11. Campinha-Bacote, J. (2002). The process of cultural competence in the delivery of healthcare services: A model of care. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 13(3), 181-184.
  12. Drabble, L., Keatley, J., Marcelle, G. (2003). Progress and opportunities in lesbian, gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Communications. Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs, 20(2), 205–227.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, December). Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Treatment Guidelines, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  14. Deptula, D.P., Henry, D.B., & Schoeny, M.E. (2010). How can parents make a difference? Longitudinal associations with adolescent sexual behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 24( 6), 731–739.
  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2010, December). Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Treatment Guidelines, 2010. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  16. Butler, S.C., Procopio, M., Ragan, K., Funke, B., & Black D.R. (2011). Condom and safer sex product availability among colleges and universities in rural setting. The Health Education Monograph Series, 25(2), 10-15.
  17. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, October). Condom Distribution as a Structural Level Intervention. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, December). Vital Signs: HIV testing in the U.S. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  19. Barth, K.R., Cook, R.L., Downs, J.S., Switzer, & G.E., Fischhoff, B. (2002). Social stigma and negative consequences: Factors that influence college students’ decision to seek testing for sexually transmitted infections. Journal of American College Health, 50,(4), 153 – 159.
  20. Petree, C. (2011). Relationships, sexuality, and sexual activity. University of Minnesota Parent Program. Retrieved from http://www1.umn.edu/parent/health-safety/relationships-sexuality/index.html


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