University ranks 14th in sexual health poll

The University is the 14th most sexually healthy college in the nation, according to the fourth annual Sexual Health Report Card released by Trojan Brand Condoms Oct. 27.

The report card ranked 141 schools based on a variety of criteria, including student opinion and quality of health centers, contraceptive availability, HIV and STI testing availability and sexual awareness and outreach programs. The rankings are based on data from campus health centers and student opinion polls.

The University was ranked 10th the first year the report card was released. In 2007 it dropped to 29th, but rose to 26th in 2008.

Rachel Storm, program coordinator at the Women’s Resources Center, said many places on campus contribute to the overall sexual health of the University, including McKinley Health Center, Planned Parenthood, the LGBT Resources Center and the Women’s Resources Center. Students can pick up free condoms from any of these places, Storm said.

She added that McKinley offers emergency contraceptives – something that is not available in some places in the United States.

“They give out a ton of free condoms, and they give good prices for their oral contraceptives,” said Ashley DeGroot, junior in ACES, and president of the University’s chapter of NOW, or the National Organization for Women. “They also give free gynecological exams, which make it easier for women to stay on top of their sexual health.”

Lena Hann, program coordinator of Champaign’s Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said Planned Parenthood offers a range of products to help people lead healthy sex lives. The clinic also makes accommodations for people with different budgets, she said.

“No one is ever turned away for inability to pay,” Hann said.

Although the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card recognizes many of the aspects of sexual health at the University, some people think it does not offer an accurate representation.

Kimberly Rice, sexual health educator at McKinley, said the Trojan ranking fails to take into account the weekly sex column in Buzz magazine or the work the Women’s Resources Center does regarding sexual violence prevention and education, she said.

“Information makes a huge difference,” DeGroot said.

Jennifer Scott, coordinator of sexual assault education at the Women’s Resources Center, also said the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card does not give the best representation.

“The U of I has one of the best sexual assault education programs out there in terms of the FYCARE (First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education) program,” Scott said. “We have had several requests from other institutions that are looking to develop programs of their own and want to use ours as a model.”

Despite all the University has to offer in regards to sexual health, Storm said she believes there needs to be a more open dialogue and positive attitude toward sex in order to encourage safe behavior.

She said the stigma associated with being sexually active before marriage contributes to anxiety felt when picking up condoms or asking questions regarding one’s sexuality or sexual health.

“I believe this stigmatization of sexuality needs to be challenged and dismantled in order to create safer sex on campus,” she said. “To me, access to contraceptives is only half of the work that needs to be done to create an environment that makes safe sex possible.”