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UTEP teaches students about sexual health

Special to The Prospector
El Paso was ranked the No. 6 city in Texas with the highest cases of HIV infection, AIDS cases and people living with HIV.

UTEP officials worry that students may be misinformed about sexual health and the ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

“We want our students to be safe and make informed decisions about any kind of situations they may be in, especially if it’s related to alcohol,” Eileen Aguilar, university wellness manager, said.

According to statistics from the Texas 2014 HIV Surveillance Report, El Paso was ranked the No. 6 city with the highest cases of HIV infection, AIDS cases and people living with HIV in Texas.

“That, for me, is something very alarming and I believe it is very important that we educate the students,” said Pilar Pacheco, peer educator, in Spanish.

Pacheco also said sexually transmitted diseases and infections may be prevented with the use of condoms and that any sexually active person should be tested for STDs at least every six months, since many people with STDs don’t show symptoms.

The Wellness Program in the College of Health Sciences trains undergraduate students to become peer educators and talk to students about sexual health. This program is known as Healthy Miner Sex Positive Peer Education. Besides having peer educators at tables with information around campus, the program offers a workshop called Miners in the Bedroom, where they offer condom demonstrations, among other things.

“When we tell them how HIV is transmitted they say, ‘I thought it was passed on just from sitting a public restroom,’ which is completely wrong,” Pacheco said.

The Wellness Department in the College of Health Sciences will host three workshops entitled “Knowledge is Key—Sex, Alcohol, and You,” during Alcohol Awareness Week. The three workshops will be held on March 3, from 10-11 a.m., 11 a.m.-noon and noon-1 p.m.

“It will be a workshop to try to explain the effects of alcohol during spring break. We just want our students to be careful about engaging in risky situations,” said Alexandra Alba, Healthy Miner peer educator and graduate student. “Alcohol may be a risk factor for you and it can lead you to make not the best decisions.”

Sexual health terminology can be confusing, Alba said, which is why it is important to attend events and workshops. She also said students should not be afraid or embarrassed about going to these events.

“Because sex is an integral part of human nature, the goal is to reduce such high cases and numbers of any sexual disease or infection,” Alba said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 24,000 women become infertile each year due to undiagnosed sexually transmissible infections.

“It is really important to get checked,” Alba said. “STIs and STDs don’t have any symptoms and that’s why there is such high numbers of infections, and the probabilities of you passing it along to others become higher. Once you do have an STD or an STI, it increases your risk of contracting HIV or AIDS.”

HIV and AIDS are treatable, but cannot be cured. A person with AIDS has an immune system that is attacked by the disease and may die from other, sometimes common, illnesses such as a cold.

According to the CDC, each year, one in four teens contracts an STD or STI. Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year in this country, half among young people ages 15-24.

UTEP’s goal is to educate students about sexual health, spread awareness and lower the number of all STD and STI cases.

For further information about sexual health, contact the College of Health Sciences at [email protected], the UTEP Student Health Center at 747-5624 or visit the CDC website,

Rene Delgadillo may be reached at [email protected].

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Rene Delgadillo, Multimedia Editor
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UTEP teaches students about sexual health