University offers students advice on being sexually healthy

Providing condoms, STI testing and educational programs are some of the ways the Health and Wellness Center promotes sexual health in students.

Universities across the U.S. strive to make sexual health resources available to students. UNA’s health resources are increasing, with new ideas in the works, such as a program similar to Columbia University’s award-winning Go Ask Alice website, where students can anonymously ask sex questions.

The biggest resource for UNA students is the Health and Wellness Center. Peggy Bergeron, registered nurse at the health center, said UNA’s health services have increased the center’s educational efforts on sexual health during the past three years.

A common resource is the “Brown Bag Special.”

“These bags have a dozen lifestyle condoms, a ‘How to Use a Condom’ guide, and safer sex tips,” Bergeron said. “We always state that condoms are not safe sex; they don’t protect against all STIs, but they are helpful with safer sex.”

In addition to protection, the health center also offers many educational programs, such as condom bingo, sex safety sessions at SOAR, information tables at the GUC, health fairs and STI testing.

“We offer free gonorrhea and chlamydia testing and treatment if needed at UNA Health and Wellness Services,” Bergeron said. “This is made possible through a collaboration with the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

Trichomoniasis, Syphillis, Herpes and HIV tests are also available for a small fee.

UNA’s health center also provides pap smears for women, which screen for cervical cancer and HPV.

Although many services are provided, Bergeron said she would like to see more done.

“We can still do more to educate our students on sexual health issues,” Bergeron said. “I would welcome any opportunity to educate students or student groups on any issues or concerns related to their sexual health.”

The Center for Women’s Studies also offers sexual health resources to students, according to Emily Horn Kelley, coordinator at the Center for Women’s Studies.

“The women’s center offers speakers frequently throughout the year who tackle topics like STDs and HIV/AIDS,” she said. “We have speakers talk about pregnancy, both wanted and unwanted, and multiple sexual partners as it relates to individual sexual health.”

The Center for Women’s Studies provides sexual health services to both women and men with programs such as Gender Buffets, film series and plays.

UNA students Cara Depew and Atticus Wright said the best thing that UNA can do to become more sexually healthy would be to provide a more regular schedule of events.

“They aren’t offered that regularly; you have to fill out a form to request one,” Depew said.

Wright said sexual health information needs to be presented in a manner that is interesting and engaging, but private.

“It never works just to get up there and spew facts at students,” Wright said. “A lot of people are going to be too afraid to go to a conference. They may be more comfortable gathering information in an online setting.”

Both the Health and Wellness Center and the Center for Women’s Studies have plans to improve sexual health resources at UNA.

“I am interested in starting a question and answer session online—similar to the Go Ask Alice site—that would provide students with reliable information on a variety of topics to include sexual health,” Bergeron said.

In the meantime, students are welcome to visit the university health center’s Facebook page to ask questions.