What is it?
Safer sex is lowering your (and your partner's) risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and/or getting pregnant. If you choose to be sexually active, using latex or polyurethane barriers (e.g. condoms, dental dams and gloves) will lower your risk for STIs and pregnancy. Safer sex is also abstaining from sex if you have sores or other symptoms of infection, getting routine checkups for infections, and getting the correct treatment if you become infected. Safer sex supplies are available at SHC's Health Promotion office, the Student Resource Center, and through your Resident Assistant.
How to Practice It
- Use Condoms
When used consistently and correctly, latex and polyurethane condoms are highly effective
in preventing transmission of HIV when used consistently and correctly during vaginal,
oral, or anal intercourse. Condoms provide a significant level of protection against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) transmitted through infected semen or vaginal fluid because they protect both partners against exposure to these fluids. They also provide some protection against STIs that are transmitted primarily through contact with infected skin, but only on the parts that are covered or protected by the condom. They are also highly effective in preventing pregnancy.
Selecting which condom to use is a matter of personal preference. To learn which condom
is best for you, try using different kinds. Some people are loyal to certain brands because they find them visually pleasing, comfortable or sensitive. Some people are allergic to
latex and choose to use polyurethane or female condoms. Some condoms come with a thin layer of water-based lubrication on them, which can make vaginal or anal penetration more comfortable and reduce the chances of breakage from friction. If you have non- lubricated condoms, it's a good idea to add a water-based lubricant, like K-Y® liquid or jelly or Astroglide®, to reduce the risk of breakage. We do not recommend the use of condoms lubricated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9. It can irritate the vulva, vagina, penis and rectum, increasing your chance of getting an infection.
Instructions and tips for using condoms are here (PDF).
- Use Dental Dams
A dental dam is a thin square of latex that is placed over the vulva (the outside of the vagina) or anus for safer oral sex. Plastic wrap (any brand) can also be used for this purpose. Free dental dams and other safer sex supplies are available at NYU.
How Not to Practice It
- Don’t Double Bag
Using two condoms, or "double bagging", does not double your protection against pregnancy and STIs. Condoms are designed to be used one at a time. The use of two condoms (two male condoms or a male condom with a female condom) is not an effective safety measure. During penetration, the condoms will rub against each other creating friction between them, making them likely to slip off or break.
- Don’t forgo barriers if you’re on the pill
Used correctly and consistently, birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and other hormonal methods like the ring are 99.7 percent effective against pregnancy. However, they offer no protection against STIs. For this reason, many people use male or female condoms in addition to a hormonal method of birth control.
- Don’t underestimate your risk, even if you’re ‘abstinent’.
- If you’re not having sex, you are not alone. One out of three NYU students reported having had no sexual partner in the last school year.* However, "having sex" can mean different things to different people. Even skin-to-skin contact may put you at risk for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). For more information, visit the trusted sites listed on the right side of this page. If you are unsure about your level of risk, call the Wellness Exchange at (212) 443-9999.
*ACHA-NCHA administered April 2004