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CPO promotes safe sex. (KENNETH HO / THE STATESMAN)

Valentine’s Day might be over, but the last thing sexually active college students want to give their significant other is HIV or an STI. That’s why the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), along with Choosing Healthy Options In a College Environment (CHOICE), will be doing what they can to make the importance of safe sex clear to the Stony Brook campus.

CPO is a university resource that considers student safety a top priority. The group of staff, student peer educators (like CHOICE) and volunteers provide students with services dealing with alcohol and other substances, relationships, gender issues and making healthy choices. This year in particular, CPO will be heavily promoting safe sex because of a $10,000 grant they received.

According to Kathleen Valerio, a health educator and peer education program coordinator for CPO, the grant is a NY State Prevention Materials Grant and will be used toward HIV prevention.

“I coordinate weekly HIV on campus testing, provided by Long Island Association for AIDS Care (LIAAC) and schedule/coordinate campus HIV testing events with area nonprofits,” Valerio said in an email.

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LIAAC does private screenings on campus so students do not have to feel uncomfortable. It is a quick and painless test that requires nothing more than a swab of the mouth. To check for STIs, students need to urinate in a cup. However, students who think they are in immediate risk of having HIV can make a special scheduled screening where they go through a different type of testing other than the swab, which is the basic testing method.

Other ways the grant money is helping is by supplying each Residence Hall Director (RHD) in each quad with a large packet of both male and female condoms for every Resident Assistant (RA) to offer to their residents, as well as an HIV handout created for the RAs.

Normally, RHDs would have to pay for their own building’s supply of condoms, but with the help of the grant, they are able to save money. Besides condoms and HIV testings, CPO has planned other ways to reach out to students about safe sex.

This past Valentine’s Day, CPO, along with Commuter Student Services, Student Health Services and Planned Parenthood, they held an event called “Love Carefully,” in which they talked about safer sex and how to protect oneself. They also encouraged students to “know your status.”

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There are also programs done by these organizations called “Flying Solo” and programs through CHOICE  that promote safer sex for students.

Palvi Chadha, a CHOICE intern and sophomore majoring in biology, thinks events like these are important.

“Nowadays, it’s common for people to have many sexual partners,” Chadha said. “HIV and AIDS are really high in America and I feel like that’s for no reason because we have to means to prevent ourselves from getting them. Why risk your immune system for a couple minutes of fun?”

But it is not just HIV or AIDS students have to worry about contracting from unprotected sex. They are also at risk for unwanted pregnancies, STIs or STDs.

“Sometimes people won’t even know if they have STIs,” said Chadha. “If you just protect yourself then it’s a sure thing and you’ll know you don’t have them.”

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Some STIs manifest symptoms in males but not females, so students can never be too sure if they are at risk. It is especially dangerous for couples who have had multiple sexual partners.

“It’s okay to have fun,” Chadha said. “But definitely think of the consequences of your actions. If you choose to be intimate, be smart, protect yourself. Think it through and most importantly, be safe!”

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