Sex is no secret on college campuses. With students engaging in hookup culture and party culture, it’s important that they are well-versed in issues of sexual health. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, 94% of college students in America are sexually active, but are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Safe sex begins with accessible information and resources, something that all college campuses can and should provide.
At present, USF has resources available on the myUSF website for sexual education including information on STIs, methods of contraception, and resources for pregnant students. USF makes it clear that they are not providing this information to “promote the use of contraception, but rather to help those who choose to be sexually active.” They also mention that they provide this info to explore “Catholic values and beliefs about sexual intimacy.”
While USF provides information, they do not provide any contraception for students on campus. In 2018, this led a group of anonymous students, known as the “Condom Distributors,” to start placing condoms in bathrooms and dorms across campus, as reported in the Foghorn at the time.
This was not the first time condoms were a hot topic at USF. A 1996 Foghorn article reported that during the AIDs epidemic, condom distribution was a point of contention on campus, as the administration strictly forbade students to pass them out. Former campus minister, Father J. Cameron Ayers, said, “The Catholic church has a role to play in helping people come to terms with their sexuality and their morality, but it cannot condone the use of condoms.”
According to the National Library of Medicine, 70% of college campuses reported having a health center, and 73% of them have STD/STI treatment and diagnosis programs. Our neighbors across the Bay, University of California Berkeley, offer medical appointments for STI and HIV testing, pregnancy testing, annual exams, and vaccines. They also offer general health coaching for students who have questions about sexual health and have a “sexpert education clinic” specifically designed for students to have all their concerns around sexuality addressed. Berkeley also has its own University Health Services Pharmacy where prescriptions, contraceptives, and sexual health items are less expensive than other pharmacies in the area.
Like UC Berkeley, other smaller schools like Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University, and Gonzaga University all provide STI testing to their students. California Jesuit universities LMU and SCU both go further than STI testing and provide gynecological health services that are essential to the well being of people with vaginas. Like USF, SCU does not provide condoms. But, USF is the only Jesuit school of the three in California that does not provide on campus gynecological resources.
Without on-campus care, students seeking sexual health care are directed to USF’s partner, St. Mary’s Medical Center on Fulton Street. In an email to the Foghorn, the Director of USF Health Promotions Services (HPS) Natalie Macia recommended utilizing St. Mary’s services, specifically the USF Clinic. All USF students have access to St. Mary’s and there is no copay for students who have consultations there, she said. Additionally, she said, “All routine and preventative care and yearly check-ups are covered 100% under the Aetna Student Health Insurance Plan.”
Macia also had a suggestion for how to improve USF’s resources. “I think one way medical services can be improved upon is having our very own USF Clinic on campus, where the entire USF community (students, faculty/staff) can have consultations with doctors, nurses, and medical professionals that is more accessible for everyone,” she said.
To align with USF’s values of “cura personalis,” the University has a responsibility to improve upon their resources and care for all aspects of student life, even the ones the Catholic church does not always approve of.