Students warned about booze, sex

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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University students are being urged to "plan before they party" to avoid spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as they welcome the start of the new academic year.

Health professionals warn that more students are putting themselves at risk of sexually transmitted diseases as alcohol consumption becomes a "bigger and bigger issue" during orientation celebrations.

Family Planning health promotion director Frances Bird said many young people starting university found themselves with "a freedom that they may not have experienced before".

"There's evidence that a lot of young people - their early sexual experiences aren't planned and they're often influenced by alcohol."

"We have been [campaigning at] O-Week for years. Alcohol seems to be a bigger and bigger issue, that's why we've become more and more focused on alcohol over the last few years."

Family Planning records about 180,000 clinic visits each year, with about 95 per cent from females. About 16 per cent of female visits were for STD testing and treatment, compared with 51 per cent of male visits for the same reason.

Bird advised students to stick with their friends while partying, keep their cellphones topped up and make sure they have a safe way to get home.

University of Canterbury Health Centre medical director Dr Joan Allardyce said most students knew about contraception and protecting themselves against STDs, but alcohol could cause them to "lower their inhibitions".

Lincoln University Students Association president Kent Lloyd said orientation celebrations could be a risky time for students in regards to their sexual health.

"Obviously [unsafe sex] goes on, but it's probably something people don't talk about that publicly.

"It goes hand-in-hand with alcohol management," he said.

Dr Geoff Stephens, of Lincoln University's Student Health Clinic, said sexual health advice was distributed to students every year, but the clinic still saw "lots" of STD cases.

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