Lingering questions from “Orgasm? Yes Please!”

Your Questions from “Orgasm? Yes, Please!” 

We had a great time hosting “Orgasm? Yes Please!” a couple of Fridays ago to a rowdy audience of over 300 UNC students! Big thanks for The Daily Tarheel for sending some love our way, to our co-sponsors Project Dinah, UNC Panhellenic Council, and to our collaborators on stage, Interactive Theater Carolina.

During the presentation, the audience texted in their anonymous questions. We didn’t have time to answer everything at the event, so we’re here today to  address some of your questions that we missed. Some of them we’ve blogged about before!

You asked, “G-spot, fact or fiction?”

Recent research has shown that “even though the majority of women believe that the G-spot exists, even if they don’t have one, we’ve all been fooled.  Sort of.” Read more!

You asked, “Is having sex while on your period really an option? How is that sanitary?”  

It’s entirely a matter of taste, and “if you are worried about the aesthetics of it, you can always throw down a towel first and then go for it!” Read more!

You asked, “Are Trojans the most effective condom? 

All condoms whose labels indicate they are for sexual use (aka, not “novelty items”) are required to pass the same tests for efficacy as they are “regarded by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Class II medical devices, a designation that includes pregnancy tests and powered wheelchairs.  Products in this category have to meet special labeling requirements and performance standards.”  Read more!

You asked, “Are STI tests on campus free?”

The Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS)  office offers a free blood HIV test! Otherwise, the price depends on your insurance. Campus Health website has information on pricing without insurance! Read more!

Free Oraquick rapid test will be available on World AIDS Day, being celebrated 11/30/12 on the UNC Campus. Free testing will be available on a walk-in basis from 11am-5pm in the UNC Student Union.

You asked, “Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses or one horse size duck?”

You know, I’m going to have to think about that one.

Stay tuned for more! We’ll be answering other questions from “Orgasm? Yes Please!” in upcoming blog posts.

HPV and Men

Did you know that the CDC recommends that men get vaccinated against HPV (human papilloma virus)? It’s true! The CDC now recommends the HPV vaccine Gardasil for both men and women ages 9-26 years old.

Man, HPV is confusing. So true! My fellow Sexual Wellness Specialist (formerly CHECS) Diana has written a great blog entry about HPV. I want to reiterate that there are over 100 strains of HPV that are transmitted through skin/skin contact in the genital region. Some strains of HPV don’t do anything. Some cause genital warts. Some cause cancers. Gardasil vaccinates against four common strains: HPV-16 & HPV-18 (which cause most of the cancers) and HPV-6 & HPV-11 (which cause 90% of genital warts).

You probably noticed that Gardasil does not vaccinate against all strains of HPV. This means that Gardasil reduces risk of infection but cannot entirely prevent it. It’s still important to take other risk reduction steps, like using condoms and dental dams.

Also note that there is another HPV vaccine available for women, but not men, called Cervarix. It only vaccinates against HPV-16 & HPV-18 (which cause most of the cancers).

I thought HPV was a women’s health issue. Continue reading

Condom effectiveness: What’s brand name got to do with it?

Condoms are one of the most commonly used contraceptive/STD prevention products used worldwide. The United Nations Population Fund estimated that over 10 billion condoms were used in 2005.  Here on campus, Campus Health Services provides thousands of condoms to students each year.

As a sexual health counselor, I have noticed that many people’s preferences for certain condom brands are based (almost entirely) on their perception of that condom brand’s effectiveness. We offer a variety of condom brands for free to students through Campus Health Services. Occasionally, when people check out the condoms we have available, they’ll ask: “are those safe to use?”, and “don’t those break more than [other condom brand]?”.

So, do some condoms in fact perform better than others in terms of STD/pregnancy prevention?

The answer is no, not really. Condoms are regarded by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “Class II medical devices”, a designation that includes pregnancy tests and powered wheelchairs.  Products in this category have to meet special labeling requirements and performance standards. For condoms, the FDA standards include systematic “water leak” tests to ensure that no fluid can leak out of the condoms. To meet standards, all condoms must have at least 996 out of 1,000 condoms, on average, pass this test. This means that FDA-approved condoms must be at least 99.6% effective in laboratory tests to be available to consumers.

In a 2004 publication, Walsh and colleagues used condom use data from trials of three bands of condoms, including Trojan, LifeStyles and Ramses – all of which are FDA-approved condom brands. Out of 3,677 condom-protected sex acts analyzed in the study, the authors found that 55 condom acts failed, either due to breaking (16 condoms broke; break rate = 0.04%) or slipping (39 condoms slipped; slip rate = 1%). The likelihood of condoms breaking during sex was not statistically associated with condom brand.

FDA-approved condoms are all quite effective at preventing pregnancy and STD, and performance is probably not related to brand type. You might be wondering if the condoms you’re using are FDA-approved. With the exception of novelty condoms (which are pretty uncommon), just about all of the condoms you’ll come across in the United States are approved by the FDA.  All the condoms we provide through Campus Health Services are FDA-approved, and same goes for places like Planned Parenthood and local STD/HIV clinics. If you’d like to be certain, you can check the condom packet to look for wording about STD and pregnancy prevention. If it’s on the packet, those condoms meet federal regulations for quality and safety.

Check out the following pictures to see how we’ve looked for this language on some condoms we provide at Campus Health Services:

If you can’t find language about STD/HIV prevention on condom packaging, then it’s not FDA approved.
If you can’t find language about STD/HIV prevention on condom packaging, then it’s not FDA approved for STD/HIV and pregnancy prevention.

All of this said, although condoms must be at least 99.6% effective in safety trials, testing conditions do not necessarily mean 99.6% real-life effectiveness for any condom brand. But here’s the good news:  there’s a lot you can do to increase the effectiveness of condoms. One of the biggest challenges to condom effectiveness is correct use.  Some of the most common errors with condom use are: using the wrong lubricant (water-based, NOT oil-based, lubricants should be used with condoms); incorrect storage (ie, storing a condom in a hot place, like a glove compartment, or in a place with lots of friction, like a wallet or pocket); and not checking the expiration date.

“Why do I feel pain during sex?”

Sex is supposed to feel good! Sex might not be earth-shattering every time and that’s just part of life, but sometimes penetrative vaginal sex can be downright physically painful. Why? There’s no one single answer. A variety of physical and emotional issues can play a role. Here are some possibilities to consider.
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STD Myths

There are a lot of misconceptions out there surrounding STDs. In honor of STD awareness month, we’ll clarify some of those most common myths we Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) hear about.

“Only promiscuous people get STDs.”

STDs can be acquired and transmitted by anyone, regardless of the number of sex partners one has. Unprotected sex and inconsistent condom use can occur in a variety of sex partnerships, from a long-term monogamous couple to a casual fling.

“Condoms are too expensive to use regularly.”

Condoms and other safer sex supplies (dental dams, female condoms, lube) are available for FREE to students through Campus Health Services. When used correctly, condoms are very effective at preventing most sexually transmitted infections. See our Campus Health Services webpage for more information on how to get some!

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What’s up with BV?

What’s up with BV?

Did you know that Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common vaginal infections?  It’s a condition that occurs when the normal balance of vaginal bacteria is disrupted. It can be asymptomatic or symptomatic; when symptomatic, folks often experience vaginal itching, burning, odor and discharge.

I’m sorry, are you telling me there are bacteria in my vagina?

True fact.  There are more bacteria cells in your body than human cells. Some of them populate the vagina. A happy vagina has certain ratios of “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria”; BV occurs when those levels are thrown off.  We classify lactobacilli as the “good bacteria” and anaerobic bacteria as “bad bacteria.” Lactobacilli are believed to regulate the vaginal ecosystem, controlling the growth of other organisms (that’s why yeast infections can occur after taking antibiotics). Lactobacilli also produce “bacteriocins,” proteins that inhibit the growth of bacteria including the anaerobic Gardnerella vaginalis, which is BV-associated and can be transmitted sexually.

So BV is a sexually transmitted disease?

“It’s complicated.”  BV is a condition that refers to a bacterial imbalance; there are multiple ways it can arise. BV is associated with multiple sex partners, but anyone who disrupts the natural balance of vaginal flora can get BV, including virgins.

So, yes, your vagina flora can be disrupted by a sexually transmitted bacteria like G. vaginalis, but it can also by disrupted by non-sexual activity, like menstruation or douching.  Douches are marketed as “hygienic” but this is misleading advertising. Using these products can disrupt the healthy balance of vaginal bacteria so experts recommend that you avoid using them.

Why does BV matter? Continue reading

GYT- Get Yourself Talking

If you’ve tested positive for an STI (formely reffered to as an STD), it doesn’t make you a bad person, and you certainly aren’t alone (the CDC estimates 1 in 4 people will get an STI before the age of 25). If you’re thinking of starting things up with a new boo though, you may be worried about killing the mood with the news. To protect your sex partner(s) and avoid any future embarrassment or misunderstanding, it’s a conversation you need to have.

Genital human papllomarivus (HPV), Hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are chronic sexually transmitted infections. In these cases, even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms, or never did, the infection may still be transmitted to your current or future partners. Using a barrier method of protection while having sex with your new partner(s) however, doesn’t replace having an honest discussion about your STI status.

Make sure you have been tested and spoken with a doctor about treatment if necessary. Being informed about any STI you have will help make the conversation with your new sex and/or relationship partner(s) easier and help reassure them you are taking responsibility for your health. Depending on what STI you have, there may be medications you can take the decrease the likelihood you pass the infection on to any new partners, beyond the point where you are personally experiencing and treating any acute symptoms.

Try imagining the role reversed-what would you expect your partner to do? Your willingness to have the conversation and preparedness beforehand shows that you care about the other person and their health. You may worry about rumors spreading, especially if an emotional investment isn’t part of the deal with this new boo. Your choice to be honest and up front may make them more likely to respect your privacy than if they wake up one day and have an infection they aren’t prepared for.

If you’re already in a relationship and test positive for an STI, it doesn’t necessarily mean your monogamous partner was unfaithful.  It’s possible you contracted the infection prior to your current relationship or hook up buddy. Giving your past or current partner the heads up gives that person the opportunity to get checked out and, if necessary, treated. Some STIs can affect fertility later in life or lead to worse infections if they’re not recognized or treated early on.

It is a courageous thing to tell someone about your sexual past, but having an STI is not the end of the world nor does it have to mean the end of your sex life. If you and your partner decide not to have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral), there are other ways you can be intimate. If you do decide to have sex, use a barrier method of protection (male or female condoms or diaphragms) and practice safe sex.

Visit the website for “Get Yourself Tested” (GYT) for more tips for talking to your partner. Check out UNC’s Campus Health Services for more information on STIs and STDs and to learn how you can get tested on UNC’s campus, with your new boo or on your own.


One study suggests that among university students, over 75% had heard of Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. But, what exactly is HPV and what is its significance in health? HPV is a complicated virus, and so it’s perhaps no surprise that many HPV misconceptions still exist.  We’ll cover some of the basics of HPV in this blog post and clarify some common questions.

Let’s start off with the basics. What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus is a family of viruses, which includes over 100 different types of HPV. In general, HPV is spread through all types of skin-to-skin contact. Different types of HPV play different roles in the body. Some HPV types exist on the body’s surface with no known health consequences. Other types of HPV go on to cause warts—this includes common warts (for example, those on people’s hands and feet), and also includes genital warts. Still other HPV types go on to cause cancer. So, the take-home message is: different types of HPV, different potential consequences. What’s important to note is that having HPV doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop the things HPV causes, like warts or cancer.

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Sexual Health and the Tar Heel City

 Photo credit: das_sabrinchen

Ever wondered how the hit HBO show “Sex and the City” ran for six years with only a few passing nods to important sexual health topics such as birth control, HIV testing, or abortion?  Despite an endless supply of Sunday brunch banter about the sexual lives and partners of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and especially Samantha, hardly a word was mentioned about these topics.  And lest we think this is a primarily heterosexual media phenomena, the same goes for the group of women who partner primarily with women on Showtime’s popular series “The L Word”.

Ok, maybe you’ve never found yourself lying awake at night wondering about this because…..
1.  You watch these shows for their entertainment value and not to get a lesson on what to talk to your doctor about.
2.  You’re not as unabashedly focused on sexual health as I am.  Who knew you could be a sexual health nerd, right?

But really, even if you haven’t even watched the show, it’s not hard to imagine how shows and movies head straight to the good stuff about sex and conveniently leave out everything else.  Most people wouldn’t consider it “sexy” to talk about your preferred method of birth control or going to get an STI test, right?

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