Condom week promotes safe sex awareness

Andrea Onstad

One student group is unrolling the latex carpet for students during National Condom Week.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education peer program will celebrate National Condom Week Saturday through Feb. 21, along with about 350 universities throughout the country.
Activities include “Sex Talk and Blow Pops” presentations to educate students on the benefits of condom use and nightly trips to campus bars to distribute condoms.
“When used properly, condoms will aid in the prevention of some sexually transmitted diseases,” said Dave Dorman, health educator at Boynton Health Service and SHADE’s staff advisor.
Through workshops, programs and services, SHADE members educate students on condom use in hopes of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. The University peer program is part of Boynton Health Service.
The first National Condom Week was held in 1978 at the University of California-Berkeley and meant to promote the education of sexual health. This is the eighth year that the University has participated in the event.
“With our program and social marketing, we are setting the precedent that it’s an expectation, not just an option anymore” to use condoms, said SHADE co-coordinator Andy Gehrz.
The organization is targeting freshmen in particular this week by increasing the group’s visibility. But group members said the work of SHADE is always present at the University.
“If all we did was National Condom Week and Safe Sex Week in October, our effectiveness would be limited,” said Dorman. “It’s all part of our package.”
The 25 people who make up the student-run organization attend weekly classes about sexual health education and communication techniques. They staff a “sexfiles” office that contains articles and brochures on sexual health. The staff also have created “CyberSHADE,” a World Wide Web site that features links to SHADE workshops, sexual health services and “Question of the Week” archives.
“In 1987, we gave out 3,000 condoms throughout the year. Now we give out 100,000,” said Dorman, who added that the increase in distribution can be attributed to the group’s work.
The program is implementing a new marketing strategy that entails promoting sexual health with new communication strategies. Posters with humorous pictures and catchy slogans attract attention to the organization’s messages.
This spring the group will compile a new Student Health Survey, which includes questions about sexually transmitted diseases, condom use and other sex-related topics. The group last did the survey in 1995.
“The point is to concentrate on a healthy lifestyle in general, eating, drinking, exercise and safe sex, all ties into one,” said former group member Jennifer Flemming.