This September, Student Health and Counseling at the University of New Mexico is doing their part in highlighting Sexual Health Awareness Month in an effort to encourage safe sex in the UNM community.
One in four college students have a sexually transmited infection, according to the Health News Hub. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, gonorrhea and syphilis cases have gone up by 10% and 7% respectively since 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control.
With students returning to campus for in-person classes, it is important to make sure they have a full understanding of the importance of sexual health, according to Benjamin Furguson, a health educator for SHAC.
“Sexual Health Awareness Month was always (and) has always been there, but we felt like it was really important as students come back to being on campus to help understand the importance of maintaining or having the resources to maintain their sexual health, so they are staying safe as they start their semester,” Furguson said.
SHAC offers free STI testing for all students, regardless of health insurance coverage, with gonorrhea & chlamydia tests being offered every Tuesday by appointment and HIV testing offered every other Wednesday as part of SHAC’s biweekly “Hump Day Wednesday” program, which also provides free condoms and birth control to UNM students.
This type of access and education is important for university students who may not have had that comprehensive sexual education during high school, according to Furguson.
“That's what we pride ourselves on, is making sure that students are educated on those things. And that this is what can happen if you have unprotected sex. We're there to help fill in the gaps as far as those educational opportunities that they got in high school or whatever it might be,” Furguson said.
SHAC offers condoms at 29 different locations across campus, with emergency contraception available for purchase by any student at the pharmacy, located on the lower level of the building.
“We try to keep it in really centralized areas where a lot of students may congregate. That's part of our ‘Barrier Necessities’ program. It's a lot of fun to be able to interact with students in that way, as far as providing educational materials (and) providing safe barrier methods,” Furguson said.
This month is an important reminder of safe sexual health practices for any student regardless of sexual orientation, according to Furguson.
“Any time there's any skin contact, when you're mixing fluids from one person to another, there's always going to be a risk of getting an STI. We really want to inform, no matter how you identify, that there are still risks that are involved when you are having sex with another person,” Furguson said.
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at
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