Peer education improves sexual health at U

Boynton Health Service spends $6,000 a year on 100,000 condoms.

by Sadelle Schroeder

As the University of Minnesota hands out some 100,000 condoms each year, itâÄôs peer education paired with the prophylactics thatâÄôs improved sexual health University-wide.
Boasting a 3.37 âÄúGPAâÄù on TrojanâÄôs nationwide sexual health report card, the University has extensive resources available to students with sexual health questions and concerns.
The price tag for that volume of condoms, according to Boynton Health Service spokesman David Golden, is about $6,000. For the most part, student services fees cover the cost of condoms, Golden said.
Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, a program within Boynton, provides free âÄúsafer sexâÄù materials such as condoms and lubricant and provides support and education to students who are sexually active or abstinent. One important goal of the group is to improve the sexual health of students through volunteer peer educators.
SHADE coordinator Patrick Brady, a fifth-year University student, has been working with the program for four years.
Brady said he often sees students come to the University with varying degrees of knowledge about sexual health.
âÄúThereâÄôs a wide range. There are people who have never talked about sexual health, and there are those who lucked out and had a great sexual health education in middle school and high school,âÄù Brady said. âÄúHopefully, students can use their [more knowledgeable] friends to get the right information.âÄù
According to a 2007 college student health survey report conducted by Boynton, 77.1 percent of University students reported being
sexually active in their lifetime. Of these students, 53.9 percent reported using a condom to prevent pregnancy during their most recent sexual encounter, making condoms the highest reported method of contraception. Birth control pills came in second at 50.1 percent, while 12.6 percent of students reported using the âÄúwithdrawalâÄù method.
The survey also indicated that about one in 10 University students who were sexually active had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in their lifetime, and 4.1 percent reported having been diagnosed with an STI in the past 12 months. Genital warts and Chlamydia were the two most common STIs.
In a similar study conducted by Boynton in 2009, students from nine postsecondary institutions in Minnesota were surveyed. Of the 83.4 percent of participants who reported being sexually active in their lifetime, 45.7 percent used a condom the most recent time they engaged in sexual intercourse. Birth control pills were used by 43 percent of participants.
âÄúWe know that U students tend to be considerably smarter about sexual health,âÄù Golden said âÄúStudents are pretty well-informed. We get regular requests [from Health Advocates] for condoms.âÄù
Golden said high condom use, combined with low STI rates, contributed to the UniversityâÄôs high marks on TrojanâÄôs report card. He also attributed the success to the Health AdvocatesâÄô and SHADEâÄôs emphasis on peer education, saying that the information and materials are best distributed by fellow students rather than âÄúsomeone in scrubs.âÄù
Rates of total STIs in the statewide 2009 survey were slightly higher than those of the 2007 University survey, with 14.3 percent of students reporting having been diagnosed within their lifetime. However, the statewide rate of STI diagnosis in the past 12 months was at 3.3 percent for participants, slightly lower than the UniversityâÄôs 2007 figure.