PLATTSBURGH -- Most Plattsburgh State students care about their safety when it comes to sex, says Jerimy Blowers.

Still, his goal is to make them safer.

Blowers is health educator for Plattsburgh State's Center for Student Health and Psychological Services, one of the area agencies students can turn to for sex education, contraception and diagnosing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

"What we try to do with our prevention part is just inform students about what is out there as far as STIs and how they can protect themselves."

SAD STATISTICS

What is out there can be scary when reviewing figures about sexually transmitted infections released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

At the end of 2003, more than 1 million people in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS, nearly 40,000 individuals become infected yearly, and almost three-quarters of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were for male adolescents and adults.

Nationwide, at least 45 million people age 12 and older -- 1 out of 5 adolescents and adults -- have had genital herpes infection, which is more common in women and has no cure.

About 20 million people are infected with HPV, at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire it in their lives, and about 6.2 million Americans get a new HPV infection yearly.

GOAL IS PREVENTION

One of the keys to prevention is reminding people of those statistics, said Rory MacRae, education coordinator for Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood.

Students can contact Planned Parenthood for medical services, emergency contraception and more.

"We see a pretty diverse age group of people," MacRae said. "We do deal a lot with the college community."

Planned Parenthood in Plattsburgh conducts comprehensive sexual-education classes in most schools in Clinton and Franklin counties, though anyone can call the agency for the same information or check out its Web site.

"Primarily, our goal within education services is a goal of prevention," MacRae said. "We make sure people understand the consequences and responsibility that comes with being sexually active."

CONTRACEPTION

Planned Parenthood also provides emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill, now available over the counter as long as an individual is 18 and older. Individuals under 18 need a prescription.

"But if they don't have proof of ID, we will still see them for a visit to be safe," MacRae said.

She pointed out that costs for Planned Parenthood's services are based on patient circumstances, and high school and college students pay significantly less than people who work full time.

Plattsburgh State's Center for Student Health and Psychological Services also provides students with all options of emergency contraceptions.

And as far as contraception to help prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, the center has available everything from dental dams to condoms.

"We charge a very nominal fee, like five to seven condoms for a dollar," Blowers said.

"If people are wanting to have sex and feel they are ready, I always make sure they know ahead of time the correct way to use different forms of contraceptions and that both males and females are responsible for that. I really encourage partners to be responsible."

TESTING, COUNSELING

The center also offers solutions to help students determine whether they want to engage in sex and, if so, the risks associated with it. This year, the center partnered with the Health Department and AIDS Council of Northeastern New York to offer free HIV testing.

"If students feel they need to see somebody, they can come to the Health Center," Blowers said. "We have special clinics for males and females, and we do testing for STIs right here and are able to give them information if they do have an STI, such as what is the next step."

Blowers goes even further and discusses relationships in general with students, going over intimacy and the fact that it doesn't have to be sex.

"We try to challenge people's viewpoints so they think about the decisions they might make for themselves and their partners."

sbartlett@pressrepublican.com

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