Trojan tour promotes sexual safety

Javier Ospina (left), a Senior in Chemistry, and William Wood, Junior in LAS run the Condom Relay Race on Thursday, as part of t

Javier Ospina (left), a Senior in Chemistry, and William Wood, Junior in LAS run the Condom Relay Race on Thursday, as part of t

By Melissa Silverberg

Students raced Thursday afternoon to get their condoms out of the drawer and put on right – put them on the banana right, that is.

The condom relay race was just one event going on during the Trojan condom sexual health tour’s stop in Washington Park, more commonly known as Frat Park.

In this first year of the tour, Illinois was one stop among 60 in six months around the country. The Trojan Evolve Bus Tour is going nationwide asking students to sign a petition and pledge to use a condom every time they have sex, said Kari Kuka, communications manager and sexual health educator for the tour. So far nearly 150,000 people have signed the pledge.

Aside from the relay race the day also included trivia contests and open discussions about sex education and safe sex.

“We want to evolve the conversation about the state of sex education in America,” Kuka said.

Kuka said she was unsure of the number of students in attendance, but said turnout was low due to the weather. For students that did come see the tour, Kuka said the reception they found was very welcoming.

“They were just so excited we were here,” Kuka said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

While the tour works to educate about safe sex, they are also working to help increase sexual health.

A press release announcing the event said Illinois has the sixth highest HIV/AIDS rate in the nation.

“Champaign County is one of the highest in state of Illinois in STDs rates,” Julie Pryde, director of Infectious Disease Prevention and Management for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said in the release. The health district was not available Thursday for further comment.

The three main sexually transmitted diseases affecting Illinois are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, said Melany Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In a 2006 survey done by the state health department, the rates for both chlamydia and gonorrhea in Champaign County were higher than the average rates for the whole state.

While Champaign County does not have the highest number of sexually transmitted diseases in the state, it is in the top 10 counties in

Illinois for each of the three main diseases.

Another purpose of the Trojan tour is to gain support for the move past abstinence-only education in schools.

Many schools around the nation only teach abstinence in health education instead of helping students learn about condoms and safe sex practices.

“That kind of thinking basically says condoms don’t work and that if you have sex you are going to get an STD and die,” Kuka said. “We are promoting comprehensive sexual health education.”

This comprehensive view does include abstinence as part of the education, but not as the only option, she explained.

The Trojan bus and its workers wrapped up their activities a little earlier than expected due to rain.

“People want to know about sexual health,” Kuka said. “They want this information, they want a place to get answers.”