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Author: Tarunika Kapoor | Senior Staff
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted multiple university and campus resources, many programs continue to provide students with places to learn about healthy sexual activities and receive sexual health care.
The University Health Service (UHS) of the University of California, Berkeley is ASUC Senator Muz Ahmad's "first place" for guiding people interested in staying safe during sexual activity.
Ahmed added that in addition to information about contraception, the UHS website also contains "a lot of information" on how to conduct safe sex activities and prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
UHS spokesperson Tami Cate said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, UHS had a number of services and programs to provide students with safe sex products and education.
Kate said UHS updates the safer sex supplies map twice a year. According to the UHS Sexual Health Education Program (SHEP) website, the map lists locations that provide condoms, lubricants, and other safe sex products within a 1-mile radius around the campus, and includes things like condom types and a range of prices.
Kate added that the pandemic prevented UHS from updating the map last year, but it is canvassing the area around the campus to update the map for the spring semester.
Another safety protection and educational resource provided on campus includes dormitory health workers.
"Health workers used to prepare some condoms for residents who needed them," Kate said in an email. "Health workers hold at least one educational activity focusing on sexual health every semester."
Kate said the Tang Center also provided a free condom dispenser on its second floor, and its pharmacy provided low-cost safety products and contraceptives.
Similarly, Kate added that UHS employees sell sexual health products at discounted prices on campus vending machines, one located in a recreational sports facility, and the other will be opened in the Martin Luther King Student Union.
UHS also provides healthy sexual behavior guidance and educational appointments, where students can meet with coaches to help make lifestyle or sexual behavior changes to improve their sexual health and behavior. The conversation span with a professional health educator is 45 minutes, or the conversation span with a student’s peer educator is 25 minutes.
Cate added that coaching appointments are a service hosted by UHS that were successfully transferred online during the pandemic.
Kate explained that it is worth noting that one UHS program that cannot be converted online is Let's Taco'Bout Sex Tuesday, which is a monthly event for black students to discuss sexual health issues in their communities. This event is the result of collaboration with African American student development staff.
Kate said that Let's Taco'Bout Sex Tuesday plans to resume in the spring semester.
ASUC Senator Adrianna Ngo emphasized UHS' SHEP as a campus resource to promote safe sex and empower students with their own bodies.
"SHEP also includes all races/ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual knowledge and experience levels," Ngo said in an email. "Normally, SHEP will work with Sproul to provide free samples of condoms, dental dams and lubricants."
According to Cate, the SHEP team of UHS provides various campus outreach activities during the semester, including annual publicity activities such as Sexual Health Promotion Week and National Condom Day; educational seminars; and suggestions for organizing their own sexual health seminars for students And materials. SHEP also randomly distributes safety supplies to students.
Ngo also mentioned SHEP’s Sexpert Education Clinic, where, according to Cate, students can meet one-on-one with trained student peer educators to discuss sex-related topics, regardless of whether they have a partner.
Before the pandemic, students can also go to the Sexpert Education Clinic for HIV antibody testing. Kate said the pandemic forced UHS to stop temporarily.
The clinic is currently open from noon to 3 pm on Friday to provide other services and is located on the second floor of UHS.
According to the center's website, in terms of safe sex resources for LGBTQ students, Kate points to the Gender Equality Resource Center, a campus partner that provides programs and services that focus on men, women, LGBTQ individuals, and sexual harassment and violence.
Kate explained that due to the rising rate of sexually transmitted infections, especially among male students who have sex with other male students, UHS has carried out safer, sexy, and healthy campus activities.
This activity aims to reduce the rate of sexually transmitted infections, increase students' awareness of UHS testing services, and provide safer sex products for free on campus.
Since returning to campus this fall, UHS has not initiated any new projects.
"We have been focusing on transforming our existing projects and services back to face-to-face or hybrid models," Kate said in her email. "Before launching any new and safer sex projects and services, we will continue to work hard to restart existing projects and services."
Contact Tarunika Kapoor via [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tkapoor_dc.