Sex and sexual health

Overview

Sexuality is an intrinsic part of being human throughout the lifespan. Sexuality and our sexual health can influence our physical and emotional wellbeing as well as our relationships. Learning more about sex and sexual health can help someone have safer, respectful, and enjoyable experiences. This page contains information to support your sexual health while you are at UBC.

There is a lot to learn and reflect on when it comes to our sexuality and sexual health. Take the Sexual Health Canvas course, which includes:

  • Navigating sex and self-love
  • Communicating with a sexual partner
  • Consent
  • Healthy Relationships and breakups
  • Sexual health information and resources
     

How to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

What are STIs?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a group of infections that are most commonly passed through sex (fluid exchange or skin to skin touch). While people usually do not show any signs or symptoms, they can develop into more serious infections that can be harmful to your body and can also be passed to others unknowingly.  Anyone who is sexually active could catch an STI. The good news is that STI transmission is preventable. If someone does catch an STI, all of them are treatable and many are curable. 

Sexually transmitted infections can be:

  • Bacterial (e.g., Chlamydia, Gonorrhea)
  • Viral (e.g., HPV, HIV, HSV)
  • Parasitic (e.g., pubic lice)
  • Fungal (e.g., yeast infection)

If you are or are planning to be sexually active, consider and discuss STI prevention methods with your partner beforehand. Learn more about STIs at sexandu.ca.

Preventing STIs and transmission

STIs can be transmitted through digital (fingers), oral (mouth on genitals), vaginal, and anal sex. There are 5 ways to prevent STI transmission:

  1. Use a barrier
    Use a condom for vaginal, anal, or oral sex. External and internal condoms provide a barrier to prevent STIs from spreading. Oral dams can provide STI protection for oral sex and anal stimulation.

    At UBC, you can get condoms and oral dams at-cost at the Wellness Centre. Peer Health Educators staff at the Sexual Health Shop can provide more information about safer sex practices and answer any questions. You can also get condoms at any drug store or pharmacy.

    Free internal and external condoms can be found on campus at the Wellness Centre, SVPRO and AMS SASC.
  2. Get vaccinated
    Getting the HPV and Hepatitis A & B vaccines helps protect someone from these infections. Check your vaccination history, and get up to date if possible. 

    At UBC, Student Health Service offers vaccines. There may be a cost for certain vaccines.
  3. Get tested
    Most STIs have no symptoms. Getting an STI test is the only way to know if you or a sexual partner have certain STIs. Talk to your doctor about what an STI test includes. If you test positive for an STI, your doctor will be able to recommend treatment options and can also refer you to support resources and services.

    At UBC, Student Health Service offers STI testing or visit the Smart Sex Resource for a list of STI testing locations in BC.
  4. Use PrEP or PEP
    PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and can be used as an HIV prevention strategy for those who are HIV-negative. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a medication that can be used as soon as possible after HIV exposure. 
  5. Talk with your partner(s)
    Discussing a plan for prevention, testing history, and possible infection reduces risk of transmission, and also helps build trust and respect between partners.

Learn more through the Sexual Health Canvas Module created by the Wellness Centre. 

How to get birth control

Birth control, also known as contraception, help prevent pregnancy. Many methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy. However, no method is 100% guaranteed.

  1. Learn about birth control
    Understanding the different types of birth control can help you make an informed decision.
  2. Get your preferred contraception
    Discuss the options with your sexual partner(s) before getting the contraception.
    • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the Implant need a prescription from and insertion by a doctor.

      At UBC, Student Health Service can prescribe IUDs and the Implant. They both may have additional costs.
    • Hormonal methods (e.g., pill, patch, ring) require a prescription from a doctor and can be bought at a pharmacy.

      At UBC, book an appointment with Student Health Service for a prescription or to get more information. Walk-in clinics can also provide prescriptions. Find a health clinic near you.
    • You can buy barrier, non-hormonal methods (e.g., internal and external condoms) at any pharmacy, sex toy store, or drugstore.

      Free internal and external condoms can be found on campus at the Wellness Centre, SVPRO or AMS SASC.
  3. Maximize the effectiveness of your birth control
    • Follow the instructions for how to use the method.
    • Ask your doctor about it or call 811 to speak with a nurse 24/7.
    • Learn more about the birth control method.
    • Combine contraception methods. The most commonly combined methods are the pill and external condoms. Together, they provide more protection against pregnancy and STIs.

How to get an emergency contraception

If you had sex that could result in pregnancy and did so without birth control or contraception, or if your contraception failed during sex (e.g., the condom broke, or the pill wasn’t taken consistently), emergency contraception (EC) may be an option. Since emergency contraception drastically changes your hormone levels, it is only meant to be used occasionally, and is not meant to be used as regular birth control.

Emergency contraception is available as a pill, and you can take it within 5 days of vaginal sex. The sooner you take it after sex, the more effective it is. Taking it within the first 12 to 24 hours after sex is the most effective.

In BC, you can purchase emergency contraception from any pharmacy. You can get a prescription from a physician at Student Health Service or another doctor’s office to reduce the cost of EC and/or to find out about your options for EC.

  • Ask for a same-day appointment to get the prescription as quickly as possible.
  • Let the pharmacist or doctor know how many hours have passed since intercourse. They might have suggestions for pregnancy prevention.
  • Talk with them about which emergency contraceptive is the best option for you.
  • After your doctor’s appointment, you’ll still need to buy the EC from a pharmacy. Ask the pharmacists or check with your health insurance provider to see if the EC is covered.

Pregnancy

If you’re concerned that you may be pregnant, you can use a pregnancy test.

You can buy pregnancy tests at the Wellness Centre, or at any drug store or pharmacy in British Columbia.

A doctor or nurse can also administer a pregnancy test and discuss your birth control or pregnancy options. Book an appointment with the Student Health Service on campus, or find a clinic in Vancouver.

Visit the Sexual Health Shop

The UBC Wellness Centre offers a range of safer sex products and sex toys, available to all members of the UBC community. 

Products are specifically chosen to be gender inclusive, shame-free, pleasure-focused, and to celebrate the diversity of sexual experiences and identities at UBC.

Browse the shop

Apps and interactive resources

These websites and apps have been carefully chosen by health professionals at UBC. They’re easy and accessible tools you can use any time to help you manage your sexual health.

Peer support

It might be easier to talk with a trained student about sexuality and sexual health. They may understand what you’re going through and can offer helpful resources.

  • Wellness Centre
    Peer Health Educators at the Wellness Centre are trained students who can help if you have questions or need resources for your sexual health or anything related to your life as a student.
  • AMS Peer Support
    AMS Peer Support provides free, confidential, one-on-one peer support for UBC students facing a wide variety of challenges.

Professional help

If you need a prescription for birth control, STI testing, or support with sex and sexual health, talk to a health professional.