University Health Services offers safe sex products, protection, education

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Although the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted multiple university and campus resources, many programs continue to provide places for students to learn about healthy sexual activity and receive sexual health care.

UC Berkeley’s University Health Services, or UHS, is “the first place” ASUC Senator Muz Ahmad would direct students interested in remaining safe when engaging in sexual activity.

Ahmad added that the UHS website covers “a plethora of information” regarding how to engage in safe sexual activity and prevent sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to information about contraception.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, UHS had several services and programs to provide students with safe sex products and education, according to UHS spokesperson Tami Cate.

Twice a year, UHS would update its safer sex supply map, Cate said. According to the UHS Sexual Health Education Program, or SHEP, website, the map provides a listing of locations supplying condoms, lube and other safe sex products in a 1-mile radius around campus and includes details such as types of condoms and a range of prices.

The pandemic prevented UHS from updating the map last year, but it is in the process of canvassing the area around campus to update the map for the spring semester, Cate added.

Another resource for safe sex protection and education that is offered on campus includes residential hall health workers.

“Health Workers used to keep a few condoms on hand for residents who needed them,” Cate said in an email. “Health Workers put on at least one sexual health focused educational event each semester.”

The Tang Center also offers a free condom dispenser on its second floor, and its pharmacy offers low-cost safe sex supplies and contraceptives, Cate said.

Similarly, Cate added, UHS staffs vending machines with sexual health products with discounted prices across campus, with one located at the Recreational Sports Facility and one to be opened in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

UHS also offers Healthy Sexuality Coaching & Education appointments where students can meet with a coach to help with changes in lifestyle or sexual behaviors to improve their sexual health and sexuality. Sessions span 45 minutes with a professional health educator or 25 minutes with a student peer educator.

The coaching appointments were one service, among many others that UHS hosts, that were successfully transferred online during the pandemic, Cate added.

Notably, one UHS program that wasn’t able to transition online was Let’s Taco ‘Bout Sex Tuesday, a monthly event for Black students to discuss sexual health issues in their community, Cate explained. The event results from a partnership with African American Student Development staff.

Cate said there are plans for Let’s Taco ‘Bout Sex Tuesday to resume in the spring semester.

ASUC Senator Adrianna Ngo highlighted UHS’ SHEP as a campus resource to promote safe sex and empower students in their own bodies.

“SHEP is also inclusive of all races/ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and levels of sexual knowledge and experience,” Ngo said in an email. “Oftentimes, SHEP is tabling on Sproul, offering free samples of condoms, dental dams, and lube.”

According to Cate, UHS’ SHEP team offers a variety of campus outreach events during the semester, including annual awareness events such as Sexual Health Awareness Week and National Condom Day; educational workshops; and advice and materials for students to hold their own sexual health workshops. SHEP also randomly distributes safe sex supplies to students.

Ngo also mentioned SHEP’s Sexpert Education Clinic, where students — with or without their partners — can meet one-on-one with a trained student peer educator to discuss sex-related topics, according to Cate.

Prior to the pandemic, students were also able to visit the Sexpert Education Clinic to receive an HIV antibody test, something Cate said the pandemic forced UHS to temporarily pause.

The clinic is currently open for its other services between noon to 3 p.m. Fridays and is located on the second floor of UHS.

In terms of safe sex resources for LGBTQ+ students, Cate pointed toward the Gender Equity Resource Center, a campus partner providing programs and services focused on men, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to the center’s website.

UHS developed its Safer, Sexy, Healthy Campus campaign as a result of increasing sexually transmitted infection rates, particularly among male-identifying students who engage in sexual activity with other male-identifying students, Cate explained.

The campaign is meant to reduce sexually transmitted infection rates, increase student awareness of UHS’ testing services and provide free safer sex supplies on campus.

Since the return to campus this fall, UHS has not started any new programs.

“We have been focusing on transitioning our existing programs and services back to in person or hybrid models,” Cate said in her email. “We will continue to work on relaunching existing programs and services before launching any new safer sex programs and services.”

Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @tkapoor_dc.