Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Laurie Freeman


Knowledge, safe sex, sex education, sexual health, sexually transmitted infections, undergraduate students




Canadian rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing, with young adults being at higher risk. Safer sex practices, including barrier use, can decrease the risk of acquiring STIs. This exploratory study utilized a cross-sectional, quantitative design to investigate if any relationships existed between characteristics of undergraduate students, their sources for and levels of STI-related knowledge, and intentions to engage in safer sex practices. A sample of 138 undergraduate students completed an anonymous, online survey. Two-thirds reported engaging in sexual activity in the past year. Only 41% of sexually active participants reported using a barrier the last time they engaged in sexual activity, whereas 50% intended to use a barrier the next time they had sex. Although 68% of sexually active participants reported being in a committed relationship, relationship status was not a significant factor in barrier use at last intercourse or intentions to use a barrier at next intercourse. The most common sources of STI education were the internet, followed by teachers and peers. Sexually active participants who identified that peers influenced their current safer sex practices had higher intentions to use barriers in risky sexual situations and they were more prepared to use barriers in general. Many participants reported that the STI education they received was not perceived to be influential and many do not recall learning about different STI prevention topics. The STI knowledge score in this sample was under 50%. Higher knowledge was associated with older age and later year of study. These results suggest that undergraduate students may not have adequate tools to prevent the acquisition of STIs. Improved programming to support comprehensive sexual health education for youth is recommended to curb rising STI rates.