Holla if ya hear me
Trojan Condoms has ranked West Virginia University the seventh most sexually healthy school in the nation in their 2008 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, a huge leap from the number 69 ranking in 2007.
The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is an annual ranking of 139 colleges and universities across the country, representing each state and major athletic conference.
The report does not measure sexual activity or statistics regarding rates on sexually transmitted diseases at schools, but it does measure the information, resources and services that are available to students.
Sue Turnbull, the Clinical Nurse Educator at WVU’s Student Health Service, contributed the high ranking to efforts taken by the university to inform students about sexual health.
“We’re doing a better job of getting the information out there,” Turnbull said. “We want to make sure that sexual health can be an open conversation between students and educators.”
Turnbull also gave credit to Peggy Kovac, another health educator at WVU, who recently lost her battle with cancer this past summer.
Ten years ago Kovac started the Student Health Advisory Board at WVU, an organization that is the middle ground between the Student Health Service and the student body.
She also started the Condom Caravan, which provides an assortment of condoms at an affordable price to students.
“Peggy was such a strong advocate for providing students with information on how to be sexually healthy,” Turnbull said. “She absolutely loved working with students, and they loved her too.”
The Student Health Advisory Board just wrapped up their Valentine’s Day program, which Kovac also started, called Keep It Safer Sweetheart, or KISS. Student advisory board members put together packets filled with sexual health information, candy and condoms to hand out to the student body during the week before Valentine’s Day.
Sawan Prabhu, president of the Student Health Advisory Board, said that the organization made approximately 1,300 packets for the program this year.
“We give out this information to students, but we’re also able to promote the health services that are provided for students,” Prabhu said. “We bridge the gap between the student body and Student Health Service.”
The rankings are based on three areas of research, which were conducted by Sperling’s BestPlaces, an independent research firm that has worked with Trojan since the initial Sexual Health Report Card in 2006.
First, Sperling’s sent a questionnaire to each school’s student health center regarding services that are available to students. Sperling’s also placed an advertisement on Facebook for a survey to be taken by students. Each student that completed the survey was entered in a drawing to win a Nintendo Wii.
The survey asked students five questions based on their opinions, including their likelihood of contacting the school’s health service regarding sexual health, how trustworthy the health service is, how effective the health service is at advertising its services, the completeness of services offered and if students felt there were ways the health service could be improved.
The third area of research was an evaluation of the student health service’s Web site, an aspect that Bert Sperling, President of Sperling’s BestPlaces, thinks is an important part of informing students.
“Students are very Web savvy these days,” Sperling said. “Having an up-to-date, informative Web site is an integral part of letting the student body know what is available to them.”
Sperling said that sexual health is very important and students should be empowered to make the best decisions.
“The more information the students have, the better,” Sperling said. “This way, they know what’s out there and they can make their own best choices.”
As for WVU’s jump to No. 7 in the rankings, Sperling gave credit to the student survey portion of the research.
“Not only did we see a large number of responses from WVU students, we saw that a majority of the students rated WVU’s Student Health Service extremely high,” Sperling said.
In fact, 73 percent of WVU students who took the survey revealed they would contact Student Health Services regarding questions about sexual health, 88 percent viewed Student Health Services as trustworthy and 75 percent rated the services offered as “complete.”
WVU Student Health Services recorded in 2008 that 134 students who were tested for sexually transmitted diseases were positive for Chlamydia, 10 were positive for Gonorrhea and one test had positive results for Syphilis.
The most common viral infection among students tested at Student Health Services in 2008 was Human Papilloma Virus. According to Turnbull, 85 to 90 percent of all people who are sexually active have been exposed to some strain of HPV.
“There are about 100 different strains of HPV,” Turnbull said. “A lot of people don’t even show symptoms, and 60 to 75 percent of the people carrying it are passing on to their partners without even knowing it.”
Turnbull said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to have a strong immune system plays an important role in protecting against infections. Stress also causes the immune system to weaken, and Turnbull said that Student Health Services sees more outbreaks during stressful times for students such as finals.
WVU Student Health Services also administers about 30 HIV tests per month, and while numbers of positive cases are low, Turnbull said that many people don’t get tested.
Turnbull said that in 2006 half of the positive HIV cases in the nation were found in people under the age of 25.
“The scary thing is that the age group that is most at risk for HIV are 18 to 25 year olds.” she said. “They’re the ones more commonly engaging in these high risk behaviors, and also the ones not getting tested.”
There were also 60 positive pregnancy tests recorded by Student Health Services in 2008.
Turnbull said that she also enjoys being a resource for students who may have questions about sexual health. She said that along with supplying physical and emotional treatment to those who need it, providing educational information is the key.
“I always encourage students to call me,” Turnbull said. “Sexual health is a topic that many people are nervous to talk about, but when students want to be open about it, well that’s just wonderful!”
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