Student Health, Resident Advisors and students support condom distribution program

Office of Health Promotion distributed over 24,000 condoms last school year


Condoms are provided free of charge to Student Health by the Virginia Department of Health in the Thomas Jefferson Health District                               

Max Patten | Cavalier Daily

Each year the Office of Health Promotion in Elson Student Health provides contraceptives to students. In the 2017-18 academic year, the OHP distributed about 24,300 condoms. 

The Office of Health Promotion provides these contraceptives to the University’s Resident Advisors, who distribute them to first-year students living in dorms. Condoms are provided free of charge to Student Health by the Virginia Department of Health in the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

RAs — sometimes in partnership with the Peer Health Educators, a group of students trained to educate others on college health and wellness — inform residents of these free condoms and may also provide instruction on contraceptive usage at opening hall meetings.

“Instruction on the condoms are provided in RA programs in partnership with the Peer Health Educators,” fourth-year Engineering student Nikhith Kalkunte and fourth-year Curry student Moises Mendoza, co-chairs of the University’s Resident Staff Program, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “These programs are not required and the choice to host these programs is left up to the RA.” 

According to Kalkunte and Mendoza, the Resident Staff program tries to ensure the safety and health of their first-year residents by providing condoms as a contraceptive. This is possible through their partnership with Student Health. 

“The Virginia Department of Health and CDC determined that the age range that college students are in is at higher risk for STIs,” said Jamie Lee Leonard, director of Health Promotion and Wellbeing in Student Health in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “And condom distribution programs have been shown to decrease this risk”.

Maeov Saadee, an RA and a second-year College student, said RAs often place these condoms in bathrooms, hallways outside of RAs’ rooms or any place that is very accessible for students.

“We are just trying to show them that they really have the authority to dictate their own lives and we are not there to be their parents, we are not there to be overbearing on them and telling them what to do,” Saadee said. “Whatever they chose to do, we support them and we kind of just like are there to help them and make sure they’re as safe as possible”. 

According to Kalkunte and Mendoza, it is not unusual for RAs to replenish their stock during the year. 

Leonard also said she assumes students are using these contraceptives, as she and other Student Health employees often see RAs come back to get more condoms.

“Last year, the OHP distributed 24,300 condoms to Resident Advisors,” Leonard said.

“Of the UVA students who are having vaginal sex, ⅔ are using condoms,” Leonard said. 

First-year College student Jackson Young said providing condoms to students is a good idea. 

“I think the University is trying to promote the idea of safe sex and not necessarily to discourage sex all together which is definitely a very good thing, because they know it will happen so they might as well be safe about it,” Young said. 

First-year College student Ishita Mahajan said access to condoms reflects the feeling that the University is a transparent community. 

“I think it’s really nice that they do it because it builds a foundation of trust amongst students and faculty because it shows that they are very aware and they are here to be our mentors or pillars of support,” Mahajan said. 

According to Leonard, through these condom distribution programs, the main goal of the OHP is to help students make responsible and healthy decisions if they choose to be sexually active. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly used the pronoun "he" in reference to Jamie Lee Leonard. This article has been updated to reflect that "she" is the correct pronoun.

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