The cost of a condom

In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, Student Health & Counseling Center dedicated the 7th through the 14th to being Health Sexuality Week, including the spreading of one particular supply: condoms.

In the span of one year, SHCC will give out approximately 7,000 condoms at no cost to students, according to SHCC Director Bette Finn. As a part of their effort to promote safe sex, the center provides a basket with condoms that students may take with no questions asked ¾ that is if you are considerate in your taking.

Last semester, SHCC had a young man entering the office and grabbing large handfuls of condoms and leaving. The individual did this several times.

“We simply moved the basket closer to the front desk and next time he came through my staff was instructed to ask this individual if he would like to make an appointment,” Finn explained. The young man declined and left, abandoning his weekly gig.

“I can only assume he realized we were playing closer attention than he realized,” Finn said. “We moved our free condom supply because really it’s supposed to be a community minded available service by allowing people free access to condoms.”

Included in the Health Sexuality Week was “Know Your Status Day,” advertising the center’s services for students to receive free testing for some sexually transmitted infections, such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis and HIV.

Within the last 12 months, the SHCC received 220 requests for examinations specifically for STIs. Of those 220, 100 were female students and the remaining 120 were male.

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“I was surprised at the large number of female STD requests because most of them we see through GYN exams or annual exams,” said Finn.

Alaska has a very low rate of STIs compared to other states. In 2008, Alaska ranked in the bottom quarter of AIDS and Syphilis cases and the bottom half of gonorrheal infections in 2008, according to STD Testing Anchorage, an organization dedicated to awareness and prevention of sexual diseases in Anchorage. Alaska did however rank 2nd in the nation for the number of Chlamydia cases.

Despite the number of students concerned with STIs, condoms remain one of the most successful barriers against the infections and contraception methods.

“As a contraceptive, they’re 99.99% effective if used appropriately,” Finn stated. Yet she is speaking only of theoretical effectiveness. To accurately gauge the effectiveness of condoms, one has to take “user error” into consideration.

Using “user effectiveness,” condoms are only 93-94% effective, according to Finn.

Resident Life also provides students with free condoms at times during the semester. The Bear Necessities convenience store in Gorsuch Commons sells condoms. A representative of UAA Dining stated that Bear Necessities sells about two packs a week, each containing three condoms and selling for around three dollars.