U sponsors seminar about sexual health

by Nancy Ngo

The University’s Program in Human Sexuality sponsored a two-day seminar Thursday and Friday as part of a new program aimed at educating communities about healthy sexual relationships.
Project WISH — Women’s Initiative for Sexual Health — offered presentations dealing with topics including spirituality and sexuality, culture and sexuality, sexual anatomy and body image.
The seminar was held at Turning Point Inc. in Minneapolis. Turning Point is an organization that provides health services to culture-specific communities.
Wilhelmina Holder, director of program services for Turning Point, defines a culture-specific community as a community composed of people exposed to and tolerant of a particular culture.
“If you live in a community where there is a predominantly African-American population,” you take on the prevailing culture, Holder said. Turning Point focuses predominantly on the African-American community.
The majority of the participants in Project WISH are Turning Point clients. The seminar was also open to the public. Speakers at the presentation were community members and staff from the University.
“This workshop is a real form of collaboration with the University,” Holder said. The workshop is the University’s first collaboration with Turning Point. Turning Point provided the facility while the University’s Department of Health sponsored the project. A grant was also provided by Mercy Ventures, an Omaha, Neb., organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic church.
Beatrice Robinson, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Practice and Community Health, said Turning Point was a desirable organization for Project WISH’s first seminar on healthy sexuality because HIV risk factors among African-Americans have been rising disproportionately over the past few years.
Pamela Smith, community program assistant at Boynton Health Service, not only spoke about contraceptives, but asked for volunteers to apply male and female condoms to plastic genital models.
Smith stressed the importance of contraception and using contraceptives correctly. Although there is a higher rate of sexually transmitted infections among certain groups, “the information on contraception doesn’t change,” Smith said.
In addition, participants received informational packets addressing contraceptive options, women’s health issues and health service help lines.
About 25 participants attended the seminar each day. “The majority of women came both days,” Holder said.
Another seminar, WISH 2, is scheduled for mid-June and will offer the same presentations.
As for plans for next year, Robinson said that because the University “does not have a large number of minorities going into the Program of Human Sexuality,” WISH hopes to reach out to more communities of color by bringing programs and services into communities outside the University.