Health center urges open dialogue on sex

This week’s series of Sex Week events, sponsored by the USC Program Board, raises the question of whether USC provides adequate sexual health resources to students during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Victim · Derrick Burts, a former adult film actor, shared his views on reform in the Adult Entertainment Industry during Sex Week at USC. - Christopher Pham | Daily Trojan

The answer to this question is located on the second floor of the University Health Center in the Health Promotion and Prevention Services center.

The majority of students that visit HPPS come for the free safe-sex supplies, specifically condoms, and HIV testing, which are free during the month of February, according to Christina Li, an HPPS employee.

“We like people to come in and talk individually,” said HPPS director Paula Swinford. “But a lot of the work that we do is making sure that the conversations around sexuality happen where the student is, and making an environment that supports risk reduction and protective behaviors.”

Li said she believes students should take more advantage of HPPS’ one-on-one resources, and worries that many students might not know they exist.

“HPPS doesn’t publicize that you can come and talk about sex,” Li said. “They only publicize that you can come and get HIV testing and that there are condoms.”

The center also offers counseling and a Resource Room where students can read up on sexual health and speak to peer health educators, who have been trained to talk anonymously with students about sex and other health-related issues.

Though more students visit HPPS for condoms and testing than to talk, Li said this does not mean students aren’t taking full advantage of HPPS, whose main goal is universal prevention rather than individual intervention.

These efforts include activities like filling condom buckets campus-wide and training resident advisers to be able to have discussions about sexuality with their residents.

Catherine Chan, a freshman peer health educator, said she wishes more students would utilize HPPS’ Resource Room, she also thinks there should be more programming on campus like Sex Week.

“Most people think they’re going to get judged for talking about [sex],” Chan said. “That’s why I think programs like Sex Week are good because people can just bring their friends, and it’s not a judgment call.”

Cerise Carleo, a freshman majoring in architecture, said Sex Week is a chance to challenge students’ perceptions of sexual health.

“[Sexual health education] is still an issue here because everyone has grown up with different backgrounds,” Carleo said. “I also don’t think that it should stop at a certain age. I think you just end up having more questions the more you’re exposed to.”

Emilia Ana Cosma, executive director of Program Board’s Women’s Student Assembly, decided to bring Sex Week to USC because she believes that although the health center has a lot of available resources, USC still lacks  programming related to sexuality.

“[Sex Week] is a great way to talk about issues like safe sex, HIV/AIDS prevention, STD prevention as well as a lot of related gender and relationship issues,” Cosma said. “But it frames things in a more palatable way to educate people.”

Some of these issues will be discussed tonight at 7 p.m. in THH 119 at a workshop with the WSA and the Center for Women titled “Healthy Sex is Good Sex: Navigating the World of Hook-ups and Dating Violence.”

“We’ve tried to make it as applicable to a wide variety of students as possible, not only focusing on people who are in relationships,” Cosma said. “But also on people who are dating and just hanging out on The Row and talking about ways to avoid the different things that come up in a real open and honest forum.”