college students uci school of nursingCollege is typically a time when young people become sexually active for the first time.

However, they arent always aware of the risks, say nurse practitioners Sarah Campbell and Tiffany Nielsen.

The UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing faculty work at the UCI Student Health Center, where they see hundreds of students every year.

They do more than just a checkup. Campbell and Nielsen are there to check in on studentsmental health, sexual health, general wellness, any food insecurities and more.

The sexual health component is a crucial one. Campbell notes that theres a spectrum of how sex education is taught in various parts of the country and worldwide.

As a result, she and Nielsen are frequently the first people to tell students about the risks of unprotected sex.

A lot of times, this is their first sexual encounter. Many students are unaware as to what can be transmitted and how to protect themselves,” Nielsen says.

The risks of chlamydia and other STIs

One of the most frequently encountered STI on the UCI campus is chlamydia, an extremely common and highly contagious sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Chlamydia is very contagious and can have little to no symptoms,” Nielsen says. For women, chlamydia is especially concerning because if its not treated, it can threaten their fertility.

Campbell points out that transmission can occur through oral sex and genital contact without penetration.

In an effort to help students understand the risks and protect themselves, Campbell helped produce an informational video along with Dr. Albert Chang and Beth England-Mackie of the Student Wellness Center.

Protecting yourself and getting tests

Campbell and Nielsen counsel students on all STIs, addressing proper condom use, misconceptions, risk factors and questions to ask their partner.

There are a lot of misconceptions in sexual education,” Campbell says. Were here to help the students navigate their sexual health, re-educating them when necessary.”

Staying on top of your health

If you suspect youve been exposed to a STI, you can visit the Student Health Center for testing. No referral from a healthcare provider is necessary.

Both the Student Wellness Center and the Student Health Center have free condoms, no questions asked.

Campbell and Nielsen recommend that every student stop by the health center at least once a year. Insurance covers the visit at no cost to the student.