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Editorial: UI gets good marks for sex

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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When thinking of priorities for students on campus, a lot of things come to mind. Getting good grades, landing internships, showing up to class. And of course, having a good time.

It’s the last one that often can cause a lot of unintended side effects, and when it comes to sex, those effects can be irreversible. The University of Iowa has made an effort to educate students about safe sex, and according to the results of a report by a leading condom company, that effort has paid off.

The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, an annual ranking of sexual-health resources at American colleges and universities, released its 2013 findings, which place the UI fourth among 140 institutions.

That ranking is up from eighth in 2012 and the highest the university has received since the company launched the Sexual Health Report Card in 2010.

The report was conducted by an independent research firm that graded student health centers based on 11 different categories, including access to contraceptives and condoms, HIV/STI testing, and sexual-assault programs or services.

The importance of safe sex usually isn’t emphasized after high school sex ed. class, but it’s all the more vital on college campuses, where one in four students have some form of an STI according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s more, safe sex can prevent unintended pregnancies, the rates of which are highest among women ages 18-24. Overall, nearly half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, something that has received national attention as the Department of Health and Human Services hopes to reduce that rate from 49 percent to 44 percent as part of the Healthy People 2020 campaign.

But unfortunately, the country as a whole still has work to do, especially on STIs. During 2010-11, women and men ages 20-24 had the highest rates of chlamydia, with increases in the rate of infection for both groups at 10.5 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. The same story goes for syphilis, which more younger people have been infected with than in the past. Syphilis rates among men ages 20-24 years have increased each year since 2002, from 5.2 cases per 100,000 males to 23.4 cases in 2011.

At the UI, the fight against STIs and unplanned pregnancies seems to be going pretty well — a growing number of students are seeking out sexual health care and guidance. UI Student Health made 2,653 contacts for sexual outreach, up around 25 percent from last year’s numbers. Student Health offers STI testing and provides students with free contraception.

There have also been a variety of on-campus efforts to promote sexual health, including a free HIV testing day, a “condom crawl,” and website on which students can ask sex-related questions of two UI doctors and get some surprisingly frank answers. During “Get Yourself Tested Month” in April, Student Health offers free chlamydia and gonorrhea tests. In 2013, 284 students were tested, up from 210 in 2012.

It’s easy to fall into the mental trap that sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies will only happen to “someone else.” The UI’s fourth-place finish in sexual-health grading shows that though the university may be the No. 1 party school, resources are available to make sure whatever happens at the party doesn’t bring back something permanent.


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