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UI officials unfazed by lower sexual-health ranking

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | OCTOBER 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa has fallen three spots on the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card this year.

But despite the drop from sixth to ninth — based on accessibility to sexual-health resources and information to students — UI health officials said more students are seeking out sexual-health services than ever.

Stephanie Beecher, behavior health consultant at Student Health Service, was skeptical about the results.

"Trojan is a brand. I would definitely take that study with a grain of salt," she said. "We run a very comprehensive data set on sexual-health behavior at the university."

She noted that Student Health observed a 400 percent increase in the number of students who sought sexual-health information and services this year.

While 730 students visited Student Health from 2009 to 2010, Beecher said, 3,647 students approached Student Health through its outreach initiatives this year.

Over the last year, Beecher said, Student Health has increased its efforts by offering free HIV testing, setting up information booths that offer free condoms, and talking to fraternities and sororities about sexual health.

Beecher also said 155 students took advantage of free HIV testing in April, a rise from 66 in April 2010.

Many new entrants in Trojan's top 10 this year have had a great leap forward in their rankings. The University of Illinois-Urbana/Champagne, which was ranked 64th last year, is ranked second on this year's report card. This pattern was also seen in Iowa's accession to sixth in 2010 from 31st in 2009.

The study ranked Columbia University, Illinois-Urbana/Champagne, and Princeton University as the top three universities in sexual health resources.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said he feels positive about the university's "top-tier" ranking, because it highlights that students' health and well-being is a top priority at the school.

"The UI Student Health is doing an excellent job of communicating information to students both on a wider scale and on an individual basis. It is an excellent resource for students in terms of ensuring that they stay as healthy and safe as possible," he said.

The Rape Victim Advocacy Program has also seen an increase in the number of students seeking sexual-health-related information.

"More students than ever are discussing issues around sexual health and concern over safety on campus," said Karla Miller, the RVAP executive director. "There is increase in national attention since the 'Dear Colleague' letter was issued from the Department of Education clarifying responsibilities of schools, high-profile cases, and changes on many levels that are working toward improving overall education and especially the responses to victims — both institutionally and individually."

One of RVAP's most successful initiatives has been the nformed.net, a test that outlines better sexual behavior and is part of a compulsory orientation course for incoming UI freshmen.

UI senior Nathan Rogers agrees there is plenty of sexual-health-related help available on campus, and he isn't surprised by Iowa's high rank in the Trojan report card.

"They have free condoms available in a wide range of places, including the dormitories, Student Health Service, and also at many of their events," he said. "Even though they aren't the best of condoms, they are free, and many college students wouldn't want to buy expensive condoms, and therefore it helps a lot."

Beecher also says distributing condoms is merely one step in bettering sexual health on campus.

"You can give out as many condoms, but condoms aren't everything," she said. "It's more about education and communication of information to the students that create a safer campus."


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