Sexual health includes not just your physical health but also, very importantly, your emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality too. The term 'sexual health' in this sense, does not mean simply thinking about sexually transmitted diseases, but is the whole picture of how sexual activitity impacts on you and your wellbeing. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
Sex and your wellbeing
For sexual activity to be as enjoyable as possible for you and whoever you are doing it with, all involved have to be 100% happy with what's happening and completely aware of the decisions they are making.
If you want to brush up on your knowledge regarding sexual health and how to have the best sex possible while at University, you can read through this guide. It covers all the birds and the bees, from consent, through different types of sex, to common problems everyone encounters.
Sexual consent is an agreement to engage in sexual activity and is an essential part of any sexual activity. If you are planning to do anything sexual, it is very important that everyone involved is consenting at all times. Consenting to one thing does not mean consenting to another and consent can be withdrawn at any time - it's always okay to stop or say no at any point you don't want to continue.
Once you know each other well, you may not feel a need to give consent verbally, but it is important to know what consent might look like and ways to spot it.
- You can be specific in the sexual consent that you provide. i.e. consenting to sex with a condom or consenting to vaginal sex but not anal sex.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time. If someone were to engage you in sexual activity that you were not comfortable with, you can say no.
- You must have capacity to consent. If the person is not able to make a decision on whether they want sex or not, they may not be in a position to objectively given consent. In other words, they do not consent. For example:
- If either party is unconscious.
- If either party is under the influence of alcohol or drugs they may not be able to consent.
- If either party suffers from a medical condition which can limit their capacity to consent, or communicate consent.
- If either party has a mental health problem or learning difficulty which could impair their judgement and capacity to provide consent.
- You must have freedom to consent. No one should feel coerced or pressured to engage in sexual activity of any nature. This would remove someone’s freedom to objectively provide consent. For example:
- If either party is experiencing domestic violence or abuse which influences their decision to engage in sexual activity.
- If someone is in a position of power and they use their position to abuse the trust of their subordinates.
- If you are dependent on the other party, and feel a need to consent to sustain your financial interest, or any care provided to you.
- If you are significantly younger than the other party, you may not feel able to challenge their imposition.
- If you are not old enough to consent. If you are not old enough to legally provide sexual consent, your age means that you are not ‘free’ to provide this permission.
The age of consent in England and Wales is 16. This is the legal age at which a person can take part in sexual activity.
The Sexual Offences Act is there to protect children and young people. It is not used to prosecute under-16s who take part in consensual sexual activity with each other. For example, if two 15 year-olds have mutually consensual sex, they would not be prosecuted. But if an adult aged 18 or over has sex with a 15-year-old, it is a crime.
- Silence, or lack of a response, is not consent. Everyone needs to be aware, and to take notice, of non-verbal cues that indicate someone doesn’t want to engage in sexual activity. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Pushing/Pulling away
- Avoiding eye contact
- Shaking their head
- Not responding physically to what you are doing
- Not removing clothing.
If a person does not give consent and you still engage in sexual activity, this could be considered a sexual assault. If you have experienced violence or abuse, there are a range of support options you can use to Get Help. If you are concerned that you have been sexually assaulted, you can speak confidentially to the University's Disclosure Response Team. The Disclosure Response Team are a team of specialist University staff trained to respond to disclosures of violence and abuse. They take all disclosures seriously and will believe what you tell them.
Sexual Health clinics
The NHS provides clinics at Cardiff Royal Infirmary (CRI) and in other locations across Cardiff. All clinics are confidential. You will also be able to find clinics nearer home too.
The CRI provides the most comprehensive Sexual Health service and would be the recommended point of contact for the majority of issues.
If you require a sexual health appointment, contact the CRI on the number below. You can call between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday - Friday.
Cardiff Royal Infirmary
Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0SZ
029 2033 5208
Please see the CRI website for further information. Alternatively you can download the CRI service leaflet here.
Students who can drive or are prepared to travel may find it easier to access the Sexual Health NHS services in the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport.
Cordell Centre (GUM Clinic)
Royal Gwent Hospital
Newport NP20 2UB
Postal STI Kits
Frisky Wales is a project run by Public Health Wales. They have a detailed website with information on what services are on offer as well as types of infections and their treatements, contraception and prevention. You can acces their site by clicking this link.
There is an ongoing pilot to provide free postal testing kits to people living in Wales. These tests can check for;
- Hepatitis B and C
There is more information on the Fisky Wales Website. Please be aware that if you have experienced condom breakage, or unprotected sex, and you are concerned about HIV exposure or pregnancy you must seek medical advice immediately. You should refer to the guidance on the Frisky Wales site for specific advice on where to get help.
Postal testing services have been introduced on a trial period, and so you should complete the Public Health Wales survey to review the service once you have got your kit.
If you would like to order a free postal testing kit, then you can click here.
Alternative Cardiff Sexual Health Clinics
Park Place GP Surgery are operate a walk-in Contraception and Sexual Screening Clinic. You will need to be a registered patient at Park Place or Roath House Surgeries to use this drop in service, available every Wednesday 1pm - 3pm.
Park Place Surgery is a branch of an existing GP practice - Roath House Surgery - operating from 100 Penylan Road. The Surgery operates an appointment system, although new patients may call in during opening hours to collect registration documents.
A full STI check, with blood tests are only usually available at CRI.
Park Place Surgery
37 Park Place, Cathays, CF10 3AT
+44 (0)29 2087 0660
Opening times 12.30 - 15.30 Monday - Friday
When the practice is closed, registered patients need to phone +44 (0)29 2046 1100 for advice/appointments.
Other Cardiff Clinics
Broad Street Clinic
Barry, CF62 7AL
01446 746 722
Butetown Health Centre
Loudoun Square, Butetown, CF10 5HN
Llantwit Major Clinic
Boverton Road, Llantwit Major
Parkview Health Centre
Treseder Way, Ely, Cardiff, CF5 5NU
Penarth Health Centre
Stanwell Road, Penarth, CF64 3XF
02920 702 396
Rumney Health Centre
Rumney Primary Care Centre
Barmouth Road, Rumney, Cardiff, CF3 3LG
St David’s Hospital
Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9XB
Emergency contraception, if taken correctly can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is available free of charge to women of any age from contraceptive clinics and GPs.
There are two main types of emergency contraception available.
- Emergency contraceptive pill – This is most effective if taken within 24 hours. However is recommended to be taken within 72 hours of the encounter. You can acquire this from selected pharmacies or your GP. It is also available at most sexual health clinics (sometimes referred to as GUM clinics). It is not recommended that you take this method of contraception regularly as it is not as effective as normal contraceptive pills and is often more expensive.
- An IUD (Intra uterine device, or "coil") – may be fitted if it is more than 72 hours (and no more than five days) after unprotected sex. This may not be suitable for everyone. Doctors and family planning clinics offer this service. An IUD works by making the womb an unpleasant place for a fertilised egg to attach.
Remember that emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
See the NHS Direct Wales website for more information about emergency contraception methods.
There are a lot of different options to choose from, so don't worry if the first method you use isn't quite right. Speak to your doctor to decide which method of contraception is best for you
Free condoms from your Students’ Union - you can pick up free condoms from the condom dispenser in the Students’ Union reception, Student Advice waiting room or the IV Lounge at the Heath.
Using a condom is the only form of contraception that helps protect you against sexually transmitted infections as well as preventing pregnancy, so make sure you use them. If you are allergic to latex condoms, don’t panic, latex free condoms are readily available.
It is important to note that certain medications can make contraceptive pills less effective and oil-based products can damage condoms making them less effective. Be careful.
More about contraception
There are a large number of contraceptive methods available;
- Condoms – These are most affective in avoiding STI’s and pregnancy and have a 98% success rate.
- Cap – is a barrier method of contraception. It fits inside your vagina and prevents sperm from passing through the entrance of your womb. The cap is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Contraceptive/Combined pill - The hormones in the pill prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulating). When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Diaphragms - A contraceptive diaphragm is inserted into the vagina before sex, and it covers the cervix so that sperm can't get into the womb (uterus). The diaphragm must be left in place for at least six hours after sex. When used correctly with spermicide, a diaphragm is 92-96% effective.
- Implant - The contraceptive implant is a small flexible tube about 40mm long that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It lasts approximately 3 years. If implanted correctly, it's more than 99% effective.
- Injection - The injection contains progestogen. This thickens the mucus in the cervix, stopping sperm reaching an egg. If used correctly, the contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective.
- Intra uterine device, or 'coil' - An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. There are different types of IUD, some with more copper than others. IUDs with more copper are more than 99% effective.
- Patch - The contraceptive patch is a sticky patch, a bit like a nicotine patch, measuring 5x5cm. It delivers hormones into your body through your skin. Each patch lasts for approximately 1 week. When used correctly, the patch is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Progesterone-only pill - The progestogen-only pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. You can get this form of contraception from your doctor. If taken correctly, it can be more than 99% effective.
- Vaginal Ring - The vaginal ring is a small, soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It’s approximately 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter. The ring releases oestrogen and progestogen. This prevents ovulation (release of an egg), makes it difficult for sperm to get to an egg and thins the womb lining, so it’s less likely that an egg will implant there. If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea can make your contraceptive pill less effective at preventing pregnancy. You may need to use extra contraception, such as a condom, while you're ill and during your recovery.
- Missing pills or starting a new pack late can make your pill less effective at preventing pregnancy.
- As with all medications, there may be some side effects when taking hormonal contraceptives, but it will usually be mild or temporary. The side effects will differ depending on the person using them, so speak to your doctor is if you are experiencing unwanted side effects.
Find out about different methods of contraception here or speak to your doctor.
PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis)
PrEP is avalable in England and Wales as part of a trial, and is a drug that is taken by HIV Negative people to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
PrEP is different to PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). PEP is taken after being exposed to HIV and can reduce the chances of contracting the virus.
You can find more information PrEP and how to get PrEP in Wales on the Public Health Website, by clicking here.
Chemsex is a term used to describe using drugs to enhance sex. Strictly speaking, chemsex refers to gay or bisexual men using drugs to have sex with other men.
The most common Chemsex drugs are GHB/GBL, Mephedrone and methamphetamine. Each drug has its own risks. There are also risks associated with having sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and specific risks associated with injecting drugs.
Some drugs may also interact with anti-HIV medciation to reduce their efficacy or be dangerous. You can check your medication for interactions with the drug interaction chart from the University of Liverpool.
There is lots more detailed advice, guidance and support on Chemsex on the Public Health Wales website.
There are vaccinations available for some sexually trasnmitted infections, such as Hepatitis B or Human Papilloma viruses (which certain strains can cause genital warts, and others some types of cancers, such as cervical, penile, anal, throat).
These vaccines may only be available to specific groups of people, like MSM (men who have sex with men)
Having the HPV vaccine greatly reduces the risk of contracting genital warts, as well as many types of cancers caused by HPV
If you are in the MSM category then you should contact your GP or local GUM Clinic and ask about the vaccine.
Following a clinical assessment at a GUM Clinic, the HPV Vaccine may also be offered to other people, depending on their risk.
You can read more about HPV Vaccination on the Frisky Wales Website by clickinghere.
Sexually Transmitted Infections(STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases passed on from one person to another through unprotected sex (sex without a condom) or genital contact. You can get tested for STIs at a sexual health clinic, GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic or GP surgery.
This is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults. If you are under 25 and are sexually active, it's recommended that you get tested for chlamydia every year or when you change sexual partner. There were over 200,000 positive diagnosis last year. Young people are disproportionately affected by chlamydia.
This is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia. Most cases affect young men and women under the age of 25. About 50% of women and 10% of men don’t experience any symptoms and are unaware they’re infected.
It's important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have syphilis, as it can cause serious problems if it's left untreated.
This is a virus most commonly caught by having unprotected sex or sharing infected needles to inject drugs. There is currently no cure for HIV.
These are easily passed to others through close genital contact. They're usually found in pubic hair but can live in underarm hair, body hair, beards and occasionally eyebrows or eyelashes.
Genital herpes is a common condition, especially in people from 20 to 24 years old. There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), type 1 and type 2. Both types are highly contagious and can be passed easily from one person to another by direct contact. Herpes can also cause what is commonly known as cold sores. At least eight out of 10 people who carry the virus are unaware they have been infected because there are often few or no initial symptoms.
Genital warts are very common. In Wales, they are the second most common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) after chlamydia. You do not need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. It can be passed on through close body or sexual contact, or from infected clothing, bedding or towels. You may have a rash or tiny spots. In some people, scabies can be confused with eczema. It's usually very difficult to see the mites.
Sexual Health Facts
- You cannot always notice symptoms if you have an STI. Most people with Chlamydia don’t know that they have it. Protect yourself by using protection.
- Not all contraception protects you from STIs. If you are using the contraceptive pill, implant, coil, injection, patch or natural family planning you are not protected from STIs. Make sure that you use a condom or have a conversation with your partner.
- You can get a STIs from oral sex. Find out more here. Protect yourself by using condoms or dental dams.
- If you have an STI, don’t panic. Most STIs are easily treatable through antibiotics or creams.
- If STIs are left untreated they can cause problems in the future. For example, if gonorrhoea or chlamydia is left untreated it can causes of pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility.
You can find out about different STI's here.
Sexual Health Awareness Group
SHAG is your student led service committed to increasing awareness and understanding of fundamental sexual health issues. They are an extremely passionate group of student volunteers dedicated to supporting the welfare of the CU student body. SHAG work closely with the Students’ Union and various sexual health organisations to deliver accurate and relevant information to Cardiff University students.
SHAG administer two condom dispensers up in the Students' Union, one just by the entrance to Y Plas and another in reception. We also have a small one in the Heath by the IV lounge.
Our condom dispensers provide students with Pasante condoms, however, if you would like FREE CONDOMS of all various sizes and types then why not sign up to C-card? We run c-card every Wednesday 1pm-3pm in Room 3D in the Students' Union. For updates relating to where C-card is running, please like their Facebook page and follow their Twitter. Find out more here.
Cardiff University SHAG
Terrence Higgins Trust (HIV / AIDS)
The Family Planning Association
Public Health Wales
Disclosure Response Team
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410