The Bowdoin condoms always break. Is there something wrong with the ONE condoms?

We hear this question a lot. I asked Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes to comment on the effectiveness of the ONE condoms. She confirmed the ONE website's assertion that the condoms are as effective as other leading manufacturers.

They do not break or tear any more than other brands and are just as effective in protecting against unwanted pregnancy and many sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When you think about it, why would Bowdoin buy bad condoms? I think high numbers of unwanted pregnancy and STIs would put an unwelcome message in our College brochures. That being said, there are a couple reasons why a ONE condom—or any condom—might break.

The most prominent reason is improper application, which make condoms more prone to breaking or becoming ineffective. Think back to your middle school health unit and skip past the giggles straight to putting condoms on bananas.

Now, there are some key points in that demonstration that you may not remember maybe because that particular day, you liked the cutest boy in school and made the mistake of telling that social climber Devon, who told all the the popular girls who, with all the cattiness that exemplifies preadolescence, made your day unbearable.

So maybe, just maybe, you were a bit preoccupied. Here we go again: tips for proper condom application. One: Check the expiration date. Two: Pinch the tip of the condom while applying to allow for the collection of ejaculate. Three: Get all of the air bubbles out while rolling down the condom.

Look—safe sex is as easy as one, two, three. However, it is important to remember that this can be a lot harder while intoxicated.

Bowdoin is so small and I feel like I would know if the person I am going to hook up with has an STI. Am I wrong?

Once again, I asked for Hayes' assistance in answering this question. Bowdoin does not have a major problem with STIs because of free condoms and STI testing at the Health Center at a student's request as well as STI screening days.

That being said, Bowdoin is not exempt from STIs.

"We are on par with national statistics—HPV being the number one STI and chlamydia being the number two," said Hayes. But, other STIs have also been reported to the Health Center. Nationally, one in four college students has an STI.

More than 45 percent of college first years did not consider using contraception after binge drinking and 15 percent of them contracted and/or spread an STI, according to Education Training and Research Associates. Interestingly, more than half of college students said they could tell a person had an STD just by looking.

Now, I realize that Bowdoin students are probably not the average college student, but nonetheless, these statistics can apply. In addition, our Bowdoin bubble is tightly knit, but it is not a closed community and, despite what some may think, Bowdoin students do not only have sex with other Bowdoin students. To be frank, it is always better to be safe.

Many STIs do not manifest physical symptoms, so your partner may not even know if he or she has one.

If you plan on being sexually active, the safest course of action is to get yourself and your potential partner tested beforehand at the Health Center.

However, I understand this cannot always be the case, so protection is a good call. Not only do condoms help prevent the transmission of most STIs, they also protect against unwanted pregnancy, which is not unheard of at Bowdoin.

If you or someone you know is worried about potentially having an STI or being pregnant, you can contact the Health Center and ask for an appointment or go to Planned Parenthood in Topsham.

What is HPV?

HPV or Human Papillomavirus is the most common STI in the U.S. The virus has 200 known strands, the majority of which show no symptoms or detrimental effects in humans.

However, some can cause warts, genital and otherwise, and a smaller minority can lead to cancers in both men and women. In fact, HPV is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

One of the major differences between HPV and some other sexually transmitted infections is that it can be transferred through the skin; either skin-to-skin contact or, in some strands, skin to an infected surface are enough to contract the virus.

The Gardasil vaccine, one of two vaccines available now, prevents the contraction of four types of HPV. Two are the most common strands leading to cancer.

The other two cause most cases of genital warts. In the US, both men and women can get the vaccine, but the vaccine is only preventative and cannot kill the existing virus if already contracted.

Our bodies do a good job fighting HPV as adolescents, but as we age our resistance diminishes. A screening could never hurt and is still recommended, even for those with the vaccine.

I hope that clears up any confusion about the infection. Its quite a big topic, so if you are still confused talk to the health center or check out the CDC website's HPV fact sheet.

If you have any questions about this or any other health related topics, feel free to email or drop a letter in my SU box number 456.