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Student group works to combat myths in sexual education

Minnesota is one of 37 states that does not require sexual education to be medically accurate. In fact, there is no current state standard for sexual education.

Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, the student-led group in Boynton Health, began their Sex Ed 101 presentations this week to help students combat myths in sexual education. The next presentation will take place April 5 to continue discussions around topics including the proper use of contraceptives, preventing STIs and defining consent. 

“The only thing we teach young people in high school is that HIV and HPV are transmitted, and that is it. We don’t have to say anything about how it prevented and how it is transmitted,” said Jill Farris, director of sexual health training and education at the Healthy Youth Development-Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota.

Lexus Stokes, a SHADE coordinator and third-year gender, women and sexuality studies student, said the group frames their presentations around the lack of education given in high school. Shukri Elmi, a SHADE coordinator and fourth-year sociology and political science student, said some people come into the SHADE office having been only taught abstinence as part of their sexual education.

A pair of bills are currently moving through the Minnesota legislature to standardize medically accurate and comprehensive high school sexual education.

Farris said most students who come to college have varying levels of knowledge of sexual information, so the Sex Ed 101 series gives a comprehensive overview that includes subjects beyond STIs and contraception — like healthy relationships and gender identity.

“In a couple of states that still allow that, if they do talk about LGBTQ identity, they have to talk about it negatively,” Stokes said.

Boynton’s 2018 College Student Health Survey shows that 60 percent of University students have been sexually active within the last 12 months. The most commonly used forms of contraceptive are birth control pills and condoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that STI rates have increased significantly in recent years.

“That’s because students are switching to the IUD and the pill and other birth control methods that do not protect against STIs,” said Mabel Adams, a SHADE coordinator and second-year nutrition major. 

She said students may be unaware of other methods, so SHADE promotes using other contraception along with a condom to prevent STIs and pregnancy. Nearly 10 percent of students who participated in the Boynton survey reported being diagnosed with an STI in their lifetime.

“Data shows us … about half of students [used] condoms [during their] last sexual intercourse,” Adams said. “So still, not everyone is using condoms and maybe they don’t know how, don’t have access to it or are just like, nervous or awkward about it, so that’s one important thing that we push in this presentation.” 

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