By Cerian Jones
Sexual Health Awareness Week has just passed and it has got me thinking about the attitude towards sexual health still being an issue for many people. Sexual Health Awareness Week was a collaboration with our Student Advice service and SHAG, the student-led service committed to supporting your sexual health and wellbeing. The group ran a condom stall at last Wednesday’s YOLO, where they handed out free condoms for all! I think this is a brilliant idea to help make club nights feel safer. A pop-up STI Clinic was set up on the first floor of the Students’ Union last Tuesday that was staffed by Cardiff and Vale University’s Health Board’s Department of Sexual Health. SHAG also held C-Card drop in sessions on tour across campus all week, offering information and advice. The C-Card Scheme provides free, quick, easy, and confidential access to Durex condoms and lubricant, as well as advice and help on sexual health and relationships. Sexual health is something that should be taken seriously and not treated as a taboo subject, the week was organised to raise awareness of the importance of sexual health and ensure that every student knows how to get sexual health treatment or advice if needed. SHAG strongly believes in talking about sex and sexual health to increase awareness. They claim that wheter you’re having sex, or not, it’s good to stay informed, and prepared! The group of students works closely with reputable charities and organisations with the same beliefs.
You may have seen on Facebook the event page for the pop-up STI testing clinic ran in the students union, and some well-known figures in the SU went, as a sign of solidarity, to stay safe themselves, or because they were involved in running and organising the events held that week. However I’m sure many of us would have chosen not to notify our entire list of Facebook friends that we were going, because it’s still embarrassing to be open about your sexual health. Many of us have friends, family, and colleagues on Facebook and don’t want them to know what we get up to in our time at university. Even though it’s responsible to be serious about our health, whether it be physical, mental, sexual, or otherwise.
Of course the majority of attitudes towards sex, and hence, sexual health are changing. People are more open than ever about their experiences and in theory should be just as open about their consequential health. The pop-up clinic ran a self-test service which saves you a lot of embarrassment, and puts your mind at ease as you would receive a text to confirm your results. (Just so you know The Royal Infirmary offer the same test if you missed out!) SHAG committee members were present on the day with C-Cards as well, and offered free condoms, lube, dental dams, and pregnancy tests!
It’s crazy how taboo sexual health still is, so much so that young people aged less than 25 years experience the highest rates of STIs in the UK. This is more than likely due to a lack on knowledge and accessibility to the correct information, contraception, and services. Sexual education across the globe is still so poor and the more closed-off teenagers are from the knowledge of safe-sex, the more issues that rise. For example nine out of ten people aged 16–24 years knew that chlamydia is an STI. And of those people who did recognise chlamydia as an STI 62% of men, and 83% of women knew that is doesn’t always cause symptoms. In addition, only 46% of men, and 64% of women know that it can be easily treated with antibiotics. This shows how bad our sex education really is in the UK. It should not be our responsibility to learn what we can on the internet, we should be told these things at school so that we can stay safe and not let such issues be taboo at university, when it really matters.
Having a week dedicated to Sexual Health Awareness helps to reduce the stigma associated with STi tests as well as educates sexually active individuals on the common signs of infections, symptomns, and precautions one can take. If you want to look for advice online SHAG reccomend Better2Know. It is a nationwide campaign aimed at supporting and encouraging people to get tested and treated to help prevent the spread of STI’s. They provide advice on local clinic locations, common symptoms, and provide a home testing set which can be used and sent back with a result. Projects like this are vital to help gain the support of the government and funding bodies, to provide services for local areas.
An Office for National Statistics survey of women in Great Britain found that among 16–19 year olds in 2008–09 showed that 57% used contraception. Among these, 65% said they used condoms and 54% the pill (some use both). SHAG have already obliterated this issue among Cardiff University Students with their condom dispenser on the second floor of the SU which provides students with regular Pasante condoms. There’s also one on the Heath campus!
The awareness and publicity SHAG have within the union make it almost impossible to ignore, more students will practice safe-sex because of the work SHAG do! If you would like free condoms of all various sizes and types then why not sign up to C-card? SHAG run C-card (Condom-Card) every Wednesday 13:00-15:00 in room 3D in the Students’ Union. For updates on events and other information you can like SHAG’s Facebook page, follow their Twitter account, and look our for events on the CUSU website. SHAG’s aim is to promote awareness and understanding of fundamental sexual health issues, from providing free condoms to signposting where to get STI checks. They claim that no topic is too shocking, no issue too remote, and no student will go without help. SHAG is here to protect your welfare when it comes to one of the most sensitive and intimate areas of your wellbeing.
The taboo of sex is outdated, and as students, and young people it is our job to stamp out negative attitudes towards sexual wellbeing. For ourselves and future generations.