My name is Melissa Kelley and I am the Health Educator for the UHS Health Promotion Office. I am writing today to express my concern for a comment printed in this most recent edition of the Campus Times on March 25. In the UR Opinion section written by Matt Chin, students were asked: ‘Where do you think your tuition money goes?” Two students are quoted as stating: ‘Those condoms at UHS.”
I would like to take the opportunity today to clear up some misconceptions about the sexual behaviors of college students, condom availability on campus and the goals of health promotion at UR. Any student who would like male or female condoms, dental dams or lubricant may come to the UHS building and access these items for free. We offer these items at no cost to our students for several reasons.
First, evidence proves that the use of a latex or polyurethane barrier during sexual contact with a partner is the most effective way to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for those who are sexually active. While we acknowledge that abstinence is the most effective way to prevent disease transmission and pregnancy, we know abstinence may not be the choice of all students. We also know that each year there are approximately 19 million new cases of STIs. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states: ’15- to 24-year-olds represent only one-fourth of the sexually active population; however, they account for nearly half of all new STIs each year.”
Secondly, the UHS Health Promotion Office has adopted a harm reduction philosophy. It is this philosophy that drives our condom distribution and programming on campus. It is well known that if condoms are made readily available in addition to comprehensive sexuality education, individuals are more likely to make safe and responsible choices. We want our students to be healthy, and we want to be sure that they also have the knowledge to make the best and most informed decisions for themselves.
Lastly, we would like you to know that your tuition dollars do not support the purchase of condoms, dams or lubricant. These items are provided to UR by the State of New York as a way to ensure that we provide a necessary and vital service to our students. Additionally, I would like to note that no tuition dollars are used to support the work of the University Health Service. The student health program is supported almost entirely by the mandatory health fee that is paid by all full-time students.
It is my hope that regardless of a student’s choice to be sexually active or not, all students will respect and acknowledge that being safe and responsible is of the utmost importance. Thank you.
Melissa Kelley, M.S.
UHS Health Promotion Office