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Balancing Pleasure and Safety: The Role of Harm Reduction in Sexual Wellness

"If we want our youth to grow up safe, healthy, and ready to succeed, then all youth need the knowledge and skills to make healthy decisions about sexual health.”

– Hawaii Youth Services Network

Harm reduction is a useful strategy directed towards individuals and communities to mitigate the risks of specific behaviors. When applied to sexual health, it acknowledges the inevitability of ongoing sexual activities within society – the goal or solution is not (always) abstinence. Rather, its goals revolve around minimizing adverse outcomes rather than focusing solely on reducing sexual activities, emphasizing improvements in health and social well-being. An important harm reduction principle is ‘meeting people where they are at’, meaning that discussion around safer sex practices can vary from person to person and harm reduction does not look the same for everyone. Harm reduction takes an open, non-judgmental approach to helping mitigate effects such as sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Here are some ways to reduce risks when engaging in sexual activity:

-        Use barrier methods (safer sex supplies such as internal and external condoms, and sex dams)

-        Get tested for STBBI’s and HIV regularly, or with every new sexual partner

-        Communicate with your partner(s) about boundaries, including frequency and what type of precautions you want to take

-        Use lube! This can significantly reduce the risk of tearing with penetrative sex

-        Assess your risk and the type of sex you want to have

All that being said… good news! The Student Wellness Centre (SWC) is a sex positive environment and has FREE safer sex supply distribution for students, along with many take-home sexual health resources, pamphlets, and HIV self-test kits. Feel free to ask any sexual health related questions to the SWC student staff members when you come by to visit at 162 Extended Education!

Free safer sex supplies available (safe sex can be practiced in all kinds of relationships!):

-        External condoms

-        Internal condoms

-        Sex dams

-        Lube

Where to find the safer sex supplies in the SWC:

There are numerous benefits with the use of a harm reduction in regard to safer sex practices. Some benefits include reducing harm and mitigating risks, reducing stigma, increasing access and utilization of programs and health services, increasing knowledge around safer sex practices and sexual health, and empowering individuals to make their own informed decisions.

Sex positivity aims to promote education about our bodies, safe sex practices, and healthy relationships. Embracing a sex positive mindset fosters inclusive dialogue and ensures that individuals have access to pertinent information, empowering them to make informed decisions regarding their sexual experiences. Moreover, it aids individuals in understanding their own desires and preferences, enhancing communication with partners, and fostering the development of respectful and fulfilling relationships.

Moreover, sex positivity embraces all consensual sexual orientations and practices, including abstinence, celibacy, monogamous relationships, sex work, group encounters, and more. It fosters an environment where accurate information about these experiences and identities can be shared without judgment or hierarchy, recognizing each as valid and worthy of respect.

With a harm reduction lens, promoting safer sex practices is just a way of saying “let’s have pleasurable sex but work to eliminate the risks we are not wanting to take”!




About the Author

Kayla (She/Her)

Hi! My name is Kayla, and I am the Health and Wellness Program Assistant. I am currently in my final year of the Bachelor of Social Work Program. I am passionate about promoting self-care and mental health awareness, as well as supporting and learning about students diverse experiences while navigating through university. Outside of work and school, I enjoy exercising, reading, camping, and spending time with my friends and family.


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