On Oct. 15, University Health Service published its results from the National Health Assessment Survey, a study that looks at general health indicators of the student body. The results of this survey provide a useful tool for identifying positive and negative health trends among University students. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board has isolated three main topics for analysis: Alcohol and drug abuse, mental health and sexual health and relationships. This editorial focuses on the sexual health of the student population.

According to the last University NCHA survey, conducted in 2010, 61 percent of students reported having had a sexual partner in the previous 12 months. In this year’s survey, 63 percent of undergraduates and 77 percent of graduate students reported having had at least one sexual partner in the last 12 months. And while more respondents at the University have been having sex, fewer have been using contraception. In 2010, 91 percent of those surveyed used any method of contraception during their last instance of vaginal intercourse, while in 2014, only 86.7 percent of undergraduates and 83.2 percent of graduate students reported using contraception.

Raising greater cause for concern, however, is that the national Healthy Campus 2020 goal set by the American College Health Association is to have 62.3 percent of those surveyed use contraception. In 2010, only 56.6 percent of the nation’s students reported using contraception during their last instance of vaginal intercourse. The drastic difference between usage rates calls into question the dissemination of information and methods of contraception at other colleges.

While University students’ use of contraception is much higher than the national average, the decrease in contraception use at the University brings up questions about its availability. Relationship Remix, a program required for freshmen, is hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and is aimed at informing new students about healthy relationships, consent, sexual assault, methods of contraception and ways to access contraception.

While Relationship Remix can be a useful resource, it may not be effective in making contraception — namely condoms — available to students. At the session, SAPAC provides a basket of free condoms available for students to take. The basket, however, is often located at the back of the room, away from the group, forcing students to detach from the crowd in order to pick up a condom. This could easily draw unwanted attention to students trying to access contraception. For many students, taking contraceptives in front of a group of their peers is uncomfortable.

If students don’t want to take condoms from the basket at Relationship Remix, the session leaders inform them to go to University Health Services, where male condoms are available for free in the Wolverine Wellness room. While the session leaders have good intentions in informing students of the resources available at UHS, this piece of advice still requires students to travel out of their way for condoms. Furthermore, UHS is only open five days a week during the hours many students are in class. Students are more likely to use a condom when it’s easier to access. While it’s good that UHS offers free condoms to students, requiring them to travel to a special location during busy hours decreases the likelihood that students will actually utilize these services.

In order to help increase condom use, the University should provide condom distribution methods that are less public than traveling to the back of the room to the basket of condoms or going to UHS. One such method has already taken hold in some dorm buildings: Resident Advisors have begun attaching baskets of free condoms to the outside of their doors. This method is less stigmatized because it allows students to pick up condoms on their way to or from their dorms, or when they’re alone in the hallway, away from the judgment of peers.

This article has been updated to remove a typo that said professor respondents were included in the UHS survey.

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