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Sex survey finds more than half of students are not aware of SU’s sexual health services

250 student surveyed as VP Welfare says SU should be "doing more" to help sexual health society SHAG

A Gair Rhydd sex survey of 250 students has found that around 50 per cent of participants are not aware of the sexual health services that are currently offered by the Students’ Union.

The survey asked students about attitudes towards sex, experiences with sexual health and knowledge of existing health facilities.

One particular cause of concern recorded was the lack of sexual health advice for LGBT+ students as one participant suggested “there should be sexual health and education resources aimed directly at the LGBT+ community. We are, after all, sexual and gender minorities.

“Virtually all of the resources exist catered to straight people and most queer people are left completely in the dark having to fend for themselves and learn about sex the hard way with no prior educative material”. In the study 21 per cent of the participants described themselves as either gay, lesbian, bisexual or other, with the remaining 79 per cent selecting heterosexual or “rather not say”.

Comments were also made regarding sexual consent and a large number of participants suggested that the University should introduce consent lessons or workshops. One participant suggested that the Students’ Union “make sure people know what consent is.”

They explained: “Make people more aware of what a sexually abusive relationship may include and the warning signs of sexual abuse.”

Many Universities have started to implement consent lessons and both Oxford and Cambridge have introduced compulsory sexual consent workshops for their students.

One of the concerns associated with consent is the influence of alcohol-an issue which features prominently in the study. According to results, 59 per cent said that they have had a sexual encounter whilst drunk that they might not have had sober. One participant described their own experience of “pressured sexual encounters where I felt unable to express a ‘no’ emphatically enough for the other person to understand. Initial and early encounters were often undertaken because I felt unable to explain a No and was not comfortable in insisting”.

Other comments mentioned the negative stigma associated with sexual activity and sexual health. One participant described how pressure to have sex during “Freshers” led to male students feeling “as though they ‘failed'”. The survey also found that 51 per cent of participants felt an increased pressure to have sex at university, with the majority having had sex with between one and three partners.

Another participant commented that “choosing to abstain from sex does not make you weird and refusing to take a free condom does not mean it is because you are making ‘bad’ choices and having unprotected sex.” There were also comments that suggested condom dispensers should perhaps be placed in more “discreet” places, to avoid people feeling embarrassed.

Some participants called for condom dispensers and sexual health advice to be implemented around the entire campus, although 86 per cent of people said they do not have difficulty accessing contraception, with the majority using condoms or the combined pill. Although 83 per cent said that they use contraception, as mentioned earlier, 66 per cent said that they have had unprotected sex.

25 students admitted to having had an STI at some point and some said that they had used the ‘pulling-out method’ and have had unprotected sex in the past. Unprotected sex is sexual activity where no measures have been taken to protect the partners from an STI, whereas contraception is responsible for preventing pregnancy. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts were the three most common STIs. None of the participants reported any cases of HIV, Syphilis or Trichomoniasis.

27 people said they were “not sure” if they had an STI and, perhaps more worryingly, 54 per cent said they have never been tested. Many people also commented that there should be more encouragement to get tested and that the Students’ Union should provide more information about places to get tested.

A lack of awareness appears to be the main cause of concern and many comments were made regarding the sexual health service, or lack there of, that the Students’ Union currently provide. One student was not impressed with the current services and said “student services are kind of mediocre. There should be more available for students. I only know about SHAG and I probably wouldn’t go to them for sexual health advice I would rather go to my GP.”

This was a common theme and many comments called for a local sexual health clinic, a service which has recently been implemented at the Park Place Surgery. Many of the comments showed how little awareness there is regarding the Students’ Union’s facilities. Vice President Welfare, Kate Delaney, responded to these results saying “sexual health awareness and previsions are a big priority for me this year.

Talking to Gair Rhydd, Delaney explained that improvements are still to be made with improving sexual health awareness. The VP Welfare acknowledged that student group SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness Group) “have picked up most of the work and they are fantastic at what they do, but they should not be expected to deal with the sole responsibility of spreading awareness and supplying provisions alone. We as the Students’ Union should be doing more alongside them.”

Ways in which awareness will be raised include putting on some “temporary testing in the Students’ union at points during the year, coinciding with Sexual Health Awareness Weeks with the help of SHAG.”

As SHAG is student-led, the students involved are not qualified to give medical advice, but are able to tell students where they can get the help they need. SHAG are currently responsible for ensuring that the condom dispensers in the Students’ Union are full and have ensured Gair Rhydd that they fill them up three times a week, ensuring they are full before club nights Flux and YOLO.

Delaney also discussed plans to work with the Park Place Surgery on “sexual health provisions.” The new surgery opened in May 2015 in an attempt to offer GP services closer to students and have recently started to offer sexual health check ups on Wednesday afternoons.

The new clinic has received mixed reviews and one participant described that “getting sexual health appointments is difficult and then the time slots available are very limited if you have a busy schedule. This probably deters people from getting tested.”

SHAG also run C-Card, a government scheme which provides a variety of free Durex condoms to students, from 1-3pm on Wednesday afternoons in the Students’ Union. This is the only occasion on which the students involved are trained to give advice about sexual health.

Alternatively, you can go to the Students’ Union website for advice on sexual health, where you will find a list of clinics and services that are offered in the surrounding area.

 

 

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