News Staff Writer
Staff at UNC Asheville said the biggest misconception UNCA students have when it comes to practicing safe sexual health is ignorance on the matter itself.
Kenda Mullert, UNCA’s Health Outreach and PEPAH Coordinator, said she encourages students to not use the fact that they were not educated enough on sexual health in high school as an excuse for their ignorance and to take it upon themselves to become more aware of what it means to practice safe sex.
“The biggest misconception is that students will claim they don’t know anything. They are learning to grow up as adults and coming from a time in their life where people taught them everything to now getting into a place where they are responsible for their education including their sexual education, it’s very important to take ownership of your own sexual health,” Mullert said.
College students are often in a stage of transition and growth from their family unit toward independence. They learn in academic terms, but also learn new things about themselves and how they relate to others, including on an intimate level. This life stage is often characterized by acceptance of personal responsibility and a big part of that includes responsibility for one’s own sexual health and decision-making.
Mullert said for many students, the college years are when they first become sexually active. Students may assert their newfound independence in a number of ways, including embarking on sexual relationships. While they may feel well equipped to handle themselves in these relationships, they may not be prepared with adequate sexual health and safety knowledge to make good choices.
Jay Cutspec, director of the Health and Counseling Center, said he is passionate about helping students become more aware on important issues such as sexual violence and sexual health.
“We do a tremendous amount of outreach regarding safe sex practices, done in a variety of settings by the health and counseling staff,” Cutspec said.
Cutspec said the Health and Counseling Center offers free condoms, female condoms, dental dams and lubricant to all students.
“The biggest misconception of college students is that it is always important to prevent pregnancy, but preventing STIs is of lesser importance since most of them are treatable, we also do free testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, as well as testing for other STIs at a cost,” Cutspec said.
The director of Health and Counseling Center says PEPAH on campus are also focused on safe sex issues, as well as sexual health.
PEPAH is a one year internship program offered at UNCA. They have a group that specifically meets to discuss and promote sexual assault and sexual health awareness on campus.
Mullert said PEPAH interns do a ton of work to educate other students on campus on those important issues and there are five groups of focus within PEPAH including mental health, opioids and substance abuse, general wellness and healthy relationships and sexual assault.
Many college students can be ill-informed about safer sex which makes them more at risk for sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies because of a lack of access to information about sexual health and availability of condoms.
The Health and Counseling Center combined with PEPAH are excellent resources on UNCA’s campus that help students become more sexually aware and responsible, helping prevent unwanted sexual side effects.
For senior psychology student Nicole Crane, safer sex means always using the appropriate protection. She also likes the fact that UNCA has an online system for students to request items for their sexual health versus always having to go into the Health and Counseling Center on campus.
“I just recently found out through a friend that I could request stuff like condoms online versus having to go into the Health and Counseling Center which for me is super helpful because I can be shy and don’t always want to go in there in person for stuff like that,” Crane said.
Crane said her friend received dental dams and condoms through the online service provided through UNCA’s Health and Counseling Center and was so happy to have a more anonymous approach when it comes to obtaining these things that will support her sexual health.
“She’d talk about how cool it was that she didn’t even have to leave her apartment to get condoms and dental dams, all you have to do is go online and you can have access to so many things that can help with your sexual health,” Crane said.
Mullert said that this online service is called Safer Sex Anonymous where UNCA students are able to go online in order to feel more comfortable about requesting items for their sexual health.
All you have to do is go to healthandcounseling.unca.edu and click on the resources tab then click safer sex supply request and fill out a form on their website. The only information they ask for is your campus mailbox number or student ID number.
“We understand that some students may not want to come into the Health and Counseling Center to get these important items because for some it may be embarrassing or uncomfortable,” Mullert said. “The Safer Sex Anonymous tool is there to hopefully help students who wouldn’t come in otherwise obtain these items and help assist them in practicing safer sex.”