We can improve our sexual health grades

There’s more bad news to report to Illini nation today. It turns out the University of Minnesota managed to beat us twice in one week. Once, of course, in a disappointing Homecoming football game, the second defeat comes in a student sexual health survey conducted by Trojan Inc.

Minnesota finished 23rd out of 139 schools while Illinois came in 26th place. Such a ranking is nothing to be ashamed of considering that we soundly beat Ohio State (28th), Yale University (41st), and the University of Notre Dame (136th).

Of course this report card, coming from a company with a huge financial interest in selling contraceptives, doesn’t carry the same kind of weight a study from an academic institution would. But considering that when its business is booming, we’re safer, it’s worth exploring why we aren’t higher on the list.

Trojan determined the rankings by analyzing a number of factors including how useful students health centers are, the availability of contraceptives on campus, rate of sexually-based crimes and how easy it is to get tested for STDs and HIV.

While it’s good that our University makes a strong effort to educate students about the sexual health resources available, too many students still don’t take advantage of them. Obviously. It’s not that some don’t want to have sex, it’s that they’re just unaware of the potential harm being sexually irresponsible can cause.

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According to the report card, there are more than 3 million unplanned pregnancies each year. On top of that, more than 19 million people get infected with STIs. Those staggering numbers are surprisingly high, but maybe not considering that an estimated one billion -with a b- sex acts between single people go unprotected.

While there’s no magic solution to stopping unsafe unprotected sex across America, University students have few to blame but themselves when they wake one morning with more than they bargained for.

It’s not hard to figure out why schools at the bottom of the list are more likely to be rated as sexually unhealthy. The large role sexual stigmas play on some campuses are difficult barriers students have to overcome. The key is that those stigmas can be avoided by institutions taking a proactive approach to sexual health.

Mandatory freshman seminars and the easy availability of contraceptives at McKinley Health Center aren’t enough to completely protect us, but they go a long way to foster awareness and acceptance of the fact that the physical, mental and sexual health of students are vital components for an institution concerned with providing the best educational environment possible.