UTEP has flunked again on sexual health

Jose Soto, Staff Reporter

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UTEP ranked 122 out of 140 universities in the 2014 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card. The only University of Texas system institution to rank amongst the top 10 was UT Austin. 

Trojan Brand Condoms, one of the nations leading condom-making companies, releases their Sexual Health Report Card every year. It ranks 140 universities across the nation, highlighting the sexual health of each campus and ranking them based on accessibility of sexual health resources and information made available to the student body.

The study takes different factors into consideration when ranking colleges, including accessibility to student health centers, hours of operation, website efficiency, number of employees, peer and collegial support groups and access to HIV/STD testing on campus.

UTEP only moved up two slots from last year, when it was ranked 124. 

Eileen Aguilar, director of the Wellness Program on campus, said there is obviously a need for sexual
health improvement.

“The university is a demographic that reflects the community,” Aguilar said.  “Apparently, there is much work to be done.”

The Wellness Program recently received a grant of $543,951 from the  Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Two Should Know Initiative. It is intended to initiate the Healthy Miner Sex Positive Peer Education Program at UTEP for the next two years.

“It’s focus is to increase self-efficiency amongst our students when it comes to making rational choices regarding their sexuality,” Aguilar said.  “We aim to create a positive sexual culture on campus through peer education.”

The program will employ students from UTEP, who will be trained about healthy sexual and relationship-oriented options and they will be responsible for teaching fellow students.

“This is the first grant that is given to the university that is sexually-related,” Aguilar said. “Our program wants to create leaders in positive and healthy sexuality reform.”

The program will also work alongside the Student Health Center, which wasn’t aware of the report card or the rank UTEP received, according to their director, Louise Castro. The Student Health Center could not answer questions asked by The Prospector regarding the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card because they were unaware of such a report.

Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s Best Places, a consulting firm hired by Trojan Condoms to conduct the research, said the company has been working along with Trojan—who funds the research—for the last nine years to produce the report card.

“We send out the questionnaire to each university/college and look out for the 10 major factors for scoring, including number of drop-ins at the student health centers, appointments, information made available to students, number of contraceptives offered at the schools, testings and lectures, peer groups, number of sexual assaults that occur on campus and information found on the student health centers website for each college,” he said.

Sperling said that the number of outside guest speakers, events, awareness programs and counseling groups the schools offer can produce extra credit applied when scoring the institutions. 

“Our report card is an unbiased, factual survey and is intended to help each school improve the sexual health of their own student body,” Sperling said. “It provides an insight to the level of information that is being provided to the students. This year’s top-ranking school, (Oregon State University), can be a model for all other universities.”

OSU, along with Arizona State, which ranked No. 4 on the list, both publish weekly sexual health columns in their student newspaper.

“That can get the dialogue going,” Sperling said.  “It helps with miscommunication and the awkward feeling of talking about sex.”

OSU also has a mobile application that allows students to enter specifications on the nature of the sexual act they are going to engage in and gives information and resources on how to reduce the risk of STDs and practice safer sex.

The UTEP Student Health Center’s website offers information regarding HIV/STDs via the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  It offers HIV and STD testing to students at a discounted rate.  No other information regarding sexual health is stated on their website.

Jose Soto may be reached at [email protected]