In an attempt to address the rising cases of STIs in the state, USD housing, the Student Health Advisory Board and Sanford Health are working together on an initiative to provide free condoms and safe sex education to USD students.
Starting in January, North Complex will have four condom dispensers and Burgess-Norton will have two.
Ashley Hartnett, the assistant director of housing, said these first six dispensers will serve as a trial run; more could be added to restrooms across campus in the future.
The exact location of these first few dispensers has yet to be determined, she said.
“It’s kind of a balance between making them visible to students so they know they’re available along with the educational pieces, but then also providing some privacy for students that may want to grab one so that they’re not feeling like they’re out in the open where anyone can walk in and see them accessing it,” Hartnett said.
Housing has the dispensers and condoms, but is still in the process of designing educational materials that will be included on the dispensers, Hartnett said.
“At the end of the day, we’re happy to provide condoms to students, but at the same time we also know that along with that goes the educational piece of making safe decisions regarding sex and sexual intercourse and all of those things,” she said.
Rachel Olson, Sanford’s student health coordinator, said in an email that some examples of educational topics include STIs, mental health awareness, flu vs. cold and antibiotic usage.
Educational materials will be rotated every month to two months, Hartnett said, adding that housing is happy to provide free condoms to students, but feels the responsibility to educate them as well.
“As an institution, we’re always trying to help students make decisions for themselves,” she said. “I think that’s all about what college is, it’s figuring out how to make decisions for yourself and own your decisions, but then how to also get the education behind that so that you’re making an educational choice and that you do know your resources.”
Hartnett said Sanford and the Student Health Advisory Board are taking on the costs associated with dispensers and condoms, and will supply the condoms throughout the year. She said the costs to housing are “pretty minimal,” involving mostly installation and printing of the educational flyers.
“Our goal is to inform students on sexual transmitted diseases that continue to be on the rise in SD while promoting the practice of safe and protected sex by making condoms more accessible,” Olson said.
While Sanford provides resources and information regarding STIs to many students, its staff are often limited to whoever comes to their offices, Hartnett said. This collaborative effort to provide condoms and education is a way to remedy that, as well as meet the needs of the student population, she added.
“I think it’s a pretty cool initiative that we’re embarking on to try and provide some of those resources based on a need that Sanford is seeing on their end,” she said.