UVU sex health: Half of student respondents unprotected

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Photo credit: Laura Fox

UVU students may not be receiving the sex health information that they need, according to recent national studies. Last November, UVU was ranked in the bottom ten in Trojan and Sperling’s BestPlaces’ annual ranking of sexual health resources at American colleges and universities.

The university currently offers testing for sexually transmitted infections, free condoms, contraceptive counseling, pap smears, breast exams and pregnancy tests—but the majority of students are not utilizing these resources.

In a 2011 survey conducted by the American College Health Association, 597 UVU students provided responses to questions about general health, sexual activity and drug and alcohol use. Less than half of students who reported having sex within the last 30 days used any method of protection.

“The 2011 survey showed that the number of people who didn’t receive information about sexual health at UVU is greater than those that did receive information,” Wellness Program Coordinator Sarah Graves said. “Based on these results, it shows that we have improvement to make in dispersing information to students.”

Some students have taken the initiative to give resources to other students in order to increase outreach for sex health information.

Students for Choice, a club dedicated to providing information about sex health on campus, has taken to the hallways to ensure students have access to the resources they need.

“I made an effort to set up tables twice weekly on campus about the importance of sexual safety,” club president Trevor Carter said. “This year, I gave out pamphlets to students and distributed about 4,000 condoms—I feel that has helped students be more open about being sexually safe.”

Carter and other club members also created ‘love kits’—or, boxes filled with condoms, lubricant, stickers, candy and informative flyers.

Some students roll their eyes or laugh as they walk past Carter’s table, but he said generally the response from students has been positive.

Students may not be using the resources provided on campus because of negative social connotations according to Annabel Sheinberg, Director of Education for the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

“Sex and sex health education continue to be stigmatized in the community,” Sheinberg said. “In order to promote healthy behavior, we need to help people get past the shame and fear they may associate with sex. I think it would be helpful for University Wellness Centers to use outreach to increase student awareness about the Gardasil vaccine, STI testing and other related services.”

Student Health Services does offer students information about Gardasil, a vaccine approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can protect against several strains of HPV infection that cause cervical cancer.

SHS does not provide Depo-Provera, a contraceptive injection that provides protection for women that lasts three months, or the emergency contraceptive Plan B. Sperling’s BestPlaces founder Bert Sperling told the UVU Review last fall that the lack of these resources cost UVU a better ranking in the sexual health resources list.

Some institutions have gone to great lengths to increase outreach to students, including Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. After discovering 85 percent of students wanted Plan B available on their campus, the university introduced a Plan B vending machine last year to increase access to the contraceptive.

“Sex education should be more of a priority in Utah universities,” sophomore Tyler Voss said. “With education, students have to actually think about what they’re doing, instead of having sex and dealing with negative repercussions. Students need to know about preventative measures, it will help create a more responsible generation.”

Though the majority of students are not receiving information about sex health from UVU, some students would prefer that outreach wasn’t increased on campus. With alternative resources for information such as Planned Parenthood, friends and family, and the Internet, information about sex health isn’t hard to come by.

“By the time you’re in college, I think you’re mature enough to make your own decisions about sex and getting the information you need,” said Chase Thompson, a junior at UVU. “We receive enough sex education between 5th grade and high school, so I don’t think it’s the university’s responsibility to teach adults about sex.”

No new changes to the sex health resources offered by UVU have been proposed for next year. However, Student Health Services will evaluate results from the most recent ACHA survey to assess the current needs of the student body.