Safer Sex Week extols alternatives

About 19 percent of surveyed students chose to be abstinent in the past year.

Yelena Kibasova

Students can enjoy “Bowling for Condoms” during Safer Sex Week and gain sexual health knowledge at the same time.

This week the Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education group is again coordinating the weeklong program. The week is made up of daily events that cover an array of sexual health issues.

“We’re trying to promote safer sex of all varieties,” said Dave Dorman, health educator for Boynton Health Service.

This year there is more emphasis on abstinence, Dorman said. It is an option students choose more than people might think.

Sexual abstinence is defined as voluntarily refraining from sexual intercourse and possibly other sexual activity.

The week kicked off with Abstinence Day on Monday. On Tuesday a Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day program took place.

Natalie Lupo, a family social science junior and student-coordinator of the event, said this was a year when the nationally recognized awareness day was the same week as Safer Sex Week.

“It’s just something that’s more inclusive that we’re reaching out to a different group of people,” she said.

On Tuesday morning students and faculty members participated in the Sexual Health Data Sharing Event in Coffman Union Theater.

Edward Ehlinger, director and chief health officer for Boynton, presented the results of Boynton’s 2004 CORE Survey of Sexual Behaviors. Researchers surveyed a random sample of University students.

The findings showed some surprising results about student sexual abstinence, Ehlinger said.

“(The data) is reassuring that students are acting very responsibly,” he said.

The data showed that approximately 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-old University undergraduate students were not sexually active in the past year.

Of those not sexually active, 63 percent chose abstinence as the primary reason. A larger percentage of females were sexually active than males.

“This study certainly shows that this myth that men are more sexually active than women isn’t true,” said Nancy Raymond, professor and psychiatric consultant to the program in human sexuality.

However, she said, the findings might not be as accurate because there was no indication that the samples of men and women were equal in number.

“It could be those women who are having sexual activity are more likely to respond to (the) survey,” she said. “(Or) it could just be that the men that are more likely to respond to a survey like that are less likely to be sexually active.”

Dorman said the data presented an opportunity to concentrate more on abstinence.

“A fairly large group of students are choosing to be sexually abstinent,” he said. “We would like to be more supportive of that population.

“We tend to focus our efforts on those who choose to be sexually active because they are the students that are most at risk for unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” he said.

Julia Johnsen, a maternal and child health graduate student, attended the morning data-sharing event to gain information for a work project. She is working to put together a sexual health educational guide for local high schools and junior highs.

“I wish more people could be here and hear about what’s really going on because I do think there are a lot of misconceptions about what’s happening,” she said.

Dorman said he doesn’t expect a large turnout for the week’s events but hopes more students will hear about the important issues.

“We hope that some students do (come) and more students tell their friends about the issues,” he said. “That’s how we get a sexually healthy campus.”