Sexual Health Resources are made to support the community, do you utilize them?

Abonti Nur Ahmed
February 15, 2024
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Student Health Education Centre at McMaster is one of many groups on campus attempting to destigmatize reaching out for sexual health resources

Sexual health was defined by the World Health Organization as overall well-being correlated with sexuality, ensuring a person feels that their needs are maintained. Furthermore, they indicated that sexual health isn’t simply limited to medical well-being, it includes the ability to be able to access the resources necessary to maintain these

A paper by a group of researchers in Halifax found that some undergraduate students in Nova Scotia felt as though resources were scarce which discouraged them from seeking out.

The Student Health Education Centre at McMaster University, located in McMaster Union Student Centre, works to connect students with health resources on campus. Sheridan Fong, service director of SHEC, shared that their service offers a variety of free resources for students.

“We offer confidential peer support, as well as health resources on several subjects, such as sexual health. We also offer safer sex supplies, which is one of the main ways that we interact with students. We have our health dispensers that are free and located on the second floor of MUSC,” said Fong.

The health supplies they offer include but are not limited to, safe(r) sex supplies, pregnancy tests and menstrual products. The group has existed at McMaster for many years, known as the Birth Control Center in 1971. From that point in time they’ve expanded what they offer. Fong shares that the changes are meant to align with the inclusivity associated with sex.

“Over the years, we have expanded our product range. Just to become more inclusive of what sex means to different individuals, I would say. So we've gone from just giving out male condoms to also offering female condoms, as well as dental dams. Just understanding that the idea of sex can mean something very different for many people,” said Fong.

Stigma is something that is often associated with seeking out resources that may increase a person's sexual health. The stigmatization of this resource is something SHEC tries to actively overcome. This has caused them to introduce initiatives that pressure associated with seeking resources. This includes their dispenser on campus being open 24 hours seven days a week. Many of the other safe(r) sex options mentioned previously can be accessed Monday to Friday from 9:30 AM to 5:25 PM.

Fong shared that there is an understanding at SHEC that for some hesitantly seeking out their resources, anonymity can be beneficial. This sparked the implementation of an online ordering system. This resource allows students to check off the supplies they need in a form and pick them up discretely. 

Though there is a stigma around sexual health, Fong hopes that some of their initiatives address the embarrassment or shame some feel around accessing these supplies. 

Fong highlighted their Halloween event which handed out supplies similarly to Halloween candy. She believes that facilitating light and playful initiatives with sexual health resources can work to lessen stigma. Fong stated that SHEC plans to carry out a similar initiative for Valentine’s Day.

Funding for SHEC's initiative to add additional dispensers at the Mary E. Keyes service desk and Commons Building service desk was put to a vote in the Student Life Enhancement Fund. Fong commented on this, stating that one of the best ways to destigmatize services like SHEC is by actively funding their on-campus student outreach.

“Seeing like the Student Life Enhancement Fund, literally putting forth our project for a vote shows that they are supportive of this and this is like a university-wide support. I just think like backing projects like this with funding or like help elevating them to be put in like the student public eye really just shows their support,” said Fong. 

Having resources provided to students on campus can encourage utilizing the resources around them. Acknowledging and uplifting resources in the McMaster community, such as SHEC, are important in the goal of destigmatizing sexual health.

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