In response to Rob Olson’s Feb. 21 column “The condompushers” we would like to clarify the purpose of our efforts toincrease access to condoms for sexually active students. This year,in honor of National Condom Week, we at Health Education andPromotion, hosted our third annual Ask Me For a Condom (AMFC) days. Marketing materials mentioned the availability of condoms if you or a friend is sexually active and as the name of the campaign implies, students have to ask to receive a condom.
AMFC is part of a larger effort on the UC Davis campus to make condoms readily available for those who choose to engage in sexual activity, to reduce sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. According to the National College Health Assessment conducted in spring 2007, 62 percent of UC Davis students were sexually active within the past year, and among them 53 percent reported using a condom the last time that they had vaginal sex. Other campuses that have increased access to condoms, along with education on how to use them, have found that their efforts increased the use of condoms and safer sex products to decrease the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy, while the percent of students reporting sexual intercourse did not increase. We provide information not only about condoms, but also other forms of birth control, STIs, relationships, sexuality, communication and abstinence (the only 100 percent effective method of protection against STIs and unwanted pregnancy).
The mission of HEP is to enhance student wellness through student-centered education and creating health-promoting environments. HEP functions in a non-assumptive, non-judgmental, confidential and respectful manner. We provide a resource for students with questions about their health and personal choices. We are comprised of professional staff and student interns who focus on issues related to nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, wellness, stress management, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Rob Olson’s message that condom usage necessarily implies hook-up sex, unplanned sex, or other irresponsible sexual behavior isinaccurate. Condoms are an extremely effective way to protectyourself and your partner from pregnancy, and the only way to protect yourself and your partner from STIs. We appreciate hisacknowledgement that condoms can be used in a loving, monogamous relationship. However, his implication that knowing or trusting one’s partner somehow guarantees protection from STIs is dangerously misleading.
Of people who are infected with chlamydia, 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men show no symptoms at all, and many do not know that they are infected. Whether someone chooses to use a condom because one partner has been previously infected with an incurable infection (such as herpes simplex virus, HPV or HIV), because a woman is choosing to not be on prescription birth control, or because one wants to avoid the post-sexual activity mess, condoms can play an important role in a person’s sexual life regardless of age, sexual behaviors, or relationship status. Contrary to what Rob says, we do not assume that students are irresponsible, poor planners, short-sighted or immature, nor do we encourage students to engage in an activity that goes against their values or beliefs. We advocate that people who are choosing to engage in sex use safer sex practices when the time comes.
Unfortunately, condoms are often quite expensive when purchased from a store. It is our goal to make the safer choice the easier choice for college students. We are proud of our fellow students who, as the responsible citizens that they are, have visited our increasingly popular Love Lab and taken our educational materials, free condoms and water-based lubricant, which we provide because it reduces condom failure and micro-abrasions to delicate tissues.
AMFC days, peer education and our other sexual health promotion efforts exist to combat this macro public health issue. We work to promote a healthier campus community for all students, regardless of whether they decide to have sex while at UC Davis. Choosing to make safe decisions about sex is a fundamental sign of respect, compassion and even love for our fellow human beings.
Health Education and Promotion is located at the Cowell Student Health Center.