Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many university and campus resources, many programs continue to provide places for students to learn about healthy sexuality and receive sexual health care.
The University of California, Berkeley Health Services, or UHS, is a “first place,” ASUC Senator Moz Ahmed directs students interested in staying safe when engaging in sexual activity.
Ahmed added that the UHS website covers a “large amount of information” on how to engage in safe sexual activity and prevent sexually transmitted diseases, as well as information about contraception.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, UHS had several services and programs in place to provide students with safe sex products and education, according to UHS spokesperson Tami Cate.
Twice a year, Kate said, UHS will update its Safer Sex Supply Map. According to the UHS Sexual Health Education Program website, or SHEP, the map provides a list of sites that offer condoms, lubricants and other safe sex products within a one-mile radius around campus and includes details such as types of condoms and a range of prices.
Kate added that the pandemic prevented UHS from updating the map last year, but she is in the process of researching the area around the campus to update the map for the spring.
Another source of safe sexual protection and education offered on campus includes health workers in residential halls.
“Health workers used to keep some condoms within easy reach of the population who needed them,” Kate said in an email. “Health workers organize at least one educational event focusing on sexual health each semester.”
Tang Center also offers a free condom dispenser on the second floor, and the pharmacy provides safe sex supplies and low-cost contraceptives, Kate said.
Likewise, Kate added, UHS employees are using discount sexual health product vending machines across campus, with one at the recreational sports facility and one to open at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.
UHS also offers healthy sexuality training and education dates where students can meet with a coach to help with changes in lifestyle or sexual behaviors to improve their sexual health and sex life. Sessions last 45 minutes with a professional health educator or 25 minutes with a peer-student tutor.
Kate added that training appointments were one of the services, among many others hosted by UHS hosts, that have been successfully moved online during the pandemic.
One UHS program that hasn’t been able to go online, Kate explained, is Let’s Taco’ Out Sex Tuesday, a monthly event for black students to discuss sexual health issues in their community. This event comes from a partnership with the African American Student Development Team.
Kate said there are plans to resume Let’s Taco’ Bout Sex Tuesday in the spring.
ASUC Senator Adrianna Ngo highlighted SHEP at UHS as an on-campus resource for promoting safe sex and empowering students with their own bodies.
“SHEP also includes all races/ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and levels of sexual knowledge and experience,” Ngo said in an email. “Oftentimes, SHEP does the sprouling tour of Sproul, offering free samples of condoms, dental dams, and lubricants.”
According to Kate, the UHS SHEP team offers a variety of campus awareness events during the semester, including annual outreach events such as Sexual Health Awareness Week and National Condom Day; educational workshops; Tips and materials for students to conduct their own sexual health workshops. SHEP also randomly distributes safe sex supplies to students.
Ngo also mentioned SHEP’s Sexpert Teaching Clinic, where students — with or without their partners — can meet one-on-one with a trained student peer tutor to discuss topics related to sex, according to Kate.
Before the pandemic, students were also able to visit a Sexpert teaching clinic to receive an HIV antibody test, something Kate said the pandemic had forced UHS to pause.
The clinic is currently open for its other services from noon to 3pm on Fridays and is located on the second floor of UHS.
Regarding safe sex resources for LGBTQ+ students, Cate referred to the Gender Resource Center, a campus partner that offers programs and services focused on men, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, according to the center’s website.
Kate explained that UHS has developed its campaign for safer, more exciting and healthier campuses as a result of increased rates of sexually transmitted infections, particularly among students who identify as males who engage in sexual activity with other male students.
The campaign aims to reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections, increase student awareness of UHS testing services and provide free, safer sex supplies on campus.
Since returning to campus this fall, UHS has not started any new programs.
“We have focused on moving our existing software and services back to personal or hybrid models,” Kate said in her email. “We will continue to work on relaunching existing programs and services before any safer sex programs and services are launched.”
Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at Tweet embed.