Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Free contraception limited

Students at The University of Alabama seem to be on par with national trends about the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, despite concerns from administrators about healthy relationships and the effective use of contraceptives.

Although there are locations in Tuscaloosa to access free condoms, the University is one of only three schools in the Southeastern Conference that doesn’t provide free condoms to students.

Jessica Vickery, assistant director of health education and prevention at the Student Health Center, said the University used to provide free condoms, but the policy was changed because of mistreatment.

“We offer condoms really cheap and I’m the first one to tell a student where to go to get them for free. There were a lot of issues in the past when condoms were given out,” Vickery said. “There were multiple reasons why this was changed, one of them being that students didn’t trust the quality and were not treating the resources appropriately. When condoms are free, students treat them as though they are free – this means that while a large majority may save them and use them appropriately, there are people who have grabbed them to give to a friend to embarrass them or blown them up like balloons, taped them to walls, etc.”

Per patient privacy, the Student Health Center doesn’t release student health data but Vickery said UA students are on track with SEC schools, as well as nationally.

According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment from spring 2012, 57.1 percent of students polled used a form of contraceptive the last time they had vaginal intercourse.

“Most students are aware of STIs and STDs and what’s what and what symptoms are, so I found that as far as a knowledge base that’s where our students are; they have that,” Vickery said. “But, as far as what works and what doesn’t in pregnancy prevention and proper use of contraceptives, that’s where we’re not.”

Vickery said whenever she does a sexual health program for students, she recommends that student groups and RAs get condoms from free sources to provide to students.

“They’ve been really great about helping to provide that to students,” Vickery said. “Students can get them for reduced price at the Student Health Center pharmacy. They can go to the West Alabama AIDS Outreach or the Department of Health down on Hargrove Road. We have access to that stuff for our students as well.”

The University of South Carolina Office of Sexual Health offers students various forms of free male and female contraceptives. Shameka Wilson, USC sexual health program coordinator, said her office provides these resources and opportunities for sexual education for their students.

“I deal with a lot of first year students in my position and they oftentimes come in with misinformation, so they need to be educated about sexual health and what resources are available on campus. Also, financial OVERSET FOLLOWS:constraints can always pose problems and some students cannot afford contraception,” Wilson said. “To address this, we provide those free resources and safe place to come and ask questions about sexual health or STDs and even determine if a student needs to see a physician.”

Wilson said they sometimes encounter students who abuse the resources, but usually they are able to monitor this.

“Well, for our fraternities, sometimes pledges will come in at the beginning of the semester and empty the condoms outside of our office into their backpacks for rush stuff. We cannot always police that,” Wilson said. “If we’re in the office, we’ll stop students who do this. Otherwise, though, there is not a lot of abuse.”

A native of the northeast U.S., Vickery said she thinks that students at the Capstone are more uncomfortable talking about sexual habits than elsewhere.

“I would say it’s a comfort gap. People up North are a lot more open to talking about it and being open about it, but that does not mean that they know what they’re talking about,” Vickery said. “So, I think our students have an okay knowledge base, but I think most students walking into a college campus have an okay knowledge base. They might have had sexual health education in the past, but how much do you actually remember?”

Vickery said she hopes to increase the number of opportunities to engage in conversations about sexual health and educate students on campus about sexual health, sexual transmitted diseases and healthy relationships.

“I personally think more education is a big thing. Our administration wants more education as well,” Vickery said. “I think the more classrooms and times we can get into classrooms to talk about it, that would be great. Those are some basics that may be reminders for some people, but might be new to other people. Sexual health has become only STIs and STDs, but it’s a lot more. Sexual health is about getting consent for your partner, knowing your protection options and being comfortable with your partner.”

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