Students owe it to themselves to use the contraceptive options available across campus if needed and to educate themselves about their sexual health. Photo by Ian Feldmann
As adults, it is students’ personal responsibility to engage in smart decision making, and one smart decision is to be wise when it comes to using contraceptives. According to the National Sexual Health Association, one in two adults will contract an STI before the age of 25. Furthermore, the CDC predicts that more than 200,000 teenagers may face the decisions that come with an unplanned pregnancy. UMBC’s UHS has been distributing free contraceptives for the last five years, but are these protections enough to encourage the student body to engage in safe sexual activity?
Currently, contraceptives such the male condom, dental dams and female condoms can be found around campus at residential halls, the Mosaic, the Women’s Center and University Health Services for free. However, when seeing the quantity of contraceptives bins open to the student body, it is not unexpected that many individuals might wonder what prompted the UHS to give them away and what other ways it is helping to ensure students stay safe on campus.
According to Jackie Mungos, one of UMBC’s health educators, the primary drive to give away free contraceptives was due to an increase of STDs around campus. The UHS believes that one-third of students may be sexually active, and these precautions were expected to help decrease the risk of STDs that could potentially harm the student body. Their department neither wanted to encourage or discourage sex on campus, but wanted to ensure students’ safety. Mungos stated, “Students should take advantage of the free resources … A lot of the barriers people face are because they don’t have access or the funds for it.”
Within the US, the rate of STDs is at an all-time high. The CDC predicted that in 2017, more than 2,295,739 individuals had been infected with an STD, and the amount of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases is rapidly rising. Adults ages 15 to 24 are among the groups with the highest rates of contracting STDs, and students should become aware of their reproductive health as a result.
When undiagnosed, STDs and STIs not only have the potential to spread, but without treatment they can lead to disastrous consequences later in life. Diseases such as the human palliation virus have been known to lead to various forms of cancer such as cervical, anal and vaginal cancers. Additionally, chlamydia can lead to life-threatening circumstances such as ectopic pregnancy in women.
The UHS helps to promote sexual health and wellness throughout the year by having seminars discussing topics such as birth control and HIV awareness, along with their contraceptive’s bins. These services guarantee that students are in control of their sexual health and reaffirm students’ trust with staff by allowing them to learn about reproductive health in a constructive environment.
“It is better to have them as an option then nothing at all,” said freshman mechanical engineering major Niko Patrikios.
It is more important than ever for students to be aware of their sexual health because of the lifelong benefits such knowledge provides. Knowing more can ensure that students understand the weight of their decisions in the bedroom, and free contraceptives on campus are guaranteed to start a discussion between students and their health professionals about what they can do to take charge of their sexual health.