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Oct 22, 2013 03:31 PM EDT

49 Percent of Canadian University Students Not Using Condoms

A survey by Trojan and Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, a non-profit organization, found that while most young adults say they take their sexual health seriously, only about 51 percent admitted to using a condom during their most recent sexual encounter. 

Robin Milhausen, a sexual health expert and an associate professor at the University of Guelph in Canada, told CTV News she was surprised by the number. Only 10 percent of the young adults surveyed reported not using any birth control method at all. This suggests that the rest were relying on hormonal forms of birth control. Since hormonal birth control cannot prevent herpes or other sexually-transmitted infections, Milhausen sees this as a cause of concern. 

Milhausen suspects that many students who are not using condoms think their risk for an STI infection is low.

"Students are not concerned about STIs because some of the most common ones have no symptoms. So they think 'It can't happen to me,'" she said. "They don't know anyone with an STI. And the biggest things we have to let them know as educators is: 'in fact, you are at risk.' Rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia are quite high and, in some cases, rising. They often have no symptoms but they can lead to infertility."

It's important to remind sexually active university students that pregnancy may not be their most proximal concern: it's STI protection, Milhausen said. While many students claimed they were knowledgeable about sexual health, 74 percent scored five out of 10 or lower on a sexual health-based quiz. 

Twenty-three percent of the students believed that a vaccine to prevent HIV is now available while another 21 percent said they didn't know whether one existed. Milhausen said it's important to continue to remind university students of the importance of condoms to maintain health.

"They may know that condoms are effective, but getting the motivation and the skills to negotiate condom use, especially in longer-term relationships, is an area to work on," Milhausen said.

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