March means much more than St. Patrick's Day and the beginning of spring for many college students. It also means it's time for spring break.
While many young people look forward to taking a spring break trip to blow off some steam and have some fun, experts say this college ritual also puts many people at an increased risk for developing a sexually transmitted disease.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexually active young adults have a higher risk of acquiring STDs than those in other age groups. Additionally, those who drink alcohol have an increased risk of getting an STD.
The CDC reports that drinking increases the likelihood to engage in high-risk sexual activities, such as unprotected sexual intercourse or multiple sexual partners.
Additionally, research conducted at the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that 75 percent of all students reported never or rarely using a condom on spring break. Many reported their decisions were negatively influenced by alcohol or drug use just prior to sexual activity and nearly half (48 percent) regretted having sex while under the influence.
While drinking may cause some people to engage in sexual acts they may not have done while sober, experts say it may even affect those who use a condom to protect against STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
"It can be hard enough to remember all of the steps and figure out the correct way to roll the condom down when you're sober and in a well-lit room - but throw in darkness and an inability to see or walk straight and you've got a recipe for a condom catastrophe," Jane Bogart, from the New York University Health Center, told MTV. "The condom is more likely to rip or tear, or be put on inside out or not rolled down all the way to the base of the penis, etc."
Experts say consistent and correct use of condoms is one of the best ways to prevent against STDs. Those going away for spring break may want to think ahead and pack a box or two to make sure they or their friends are never without protection if it's needed.
The Houstonian newspaper also suggested that friends make a pact to stick together and help each other avoid making mistakes, such as having unprotected sex, that could lead to a health problem. While young people want to have an unforgettable spring break, contracting an STD probably isn't what they're imagining.
Remember, many STDs are not immediately recognizable, as they do not always cause symptoms. Individuals who have had unprotected sex should consider undergoing STD testing to ensure their health.