Durham’s sexual health provisions are letting students down – it must improve

Recently, Durham University was named the second-worst for sexual health support by online medical group Zava, losing out only to the University of South Wales. The findings were based on the quality of online sexual health information available, the location and opening hours of clinics, and the ease of access to sexual health provisions.

It is not hard to work out how Zava came to these conclusions. Unlike at Liverpool University, which was rated as the best, Durham does not have a dedicated sexual health clinic for students.

When a student needs to see a medical professional for sexual health assistance, they are virtually inaccessible.

The best that the university can offer is some mediocre signposting to the sexual health clinic at the University Hospital of North Durham, whose open hours are limited to a few hours on a Tuesday; it is hardly very accessible to students.

The only other option is for students to be signed up to a local GP. While of course signing up to a GP is beneficial for other health reasons, not all students will. The result is when a student needs to see a medical professional for sexual health assistance, they are virtually inaccessible.

Amelia McLoughlan, DSU Welfare and Liberation Officer, commented in response to this article: “Sexual health is an important part of students’ lives, and though there are definite improvements to be made in this area, there are several ways students may access advice, supplies or support, namely at the GUM clinic at University Hospital of North Durham.”

“College Welfare Officers also do a great job of making sexual health supplies available for free, the C Card scheme gives access to free condoms, and the University is conducting sexual health ‘road- shows’ across the campus. The SU is committed to promoting positive sexual health and signposting to appropriate resources and will continue to monitor student feed- back in regard to student health issues.”

I refuse to deny the attempts that colleges undertake to combat the lack of effort the University makes. St Chad’s, for example, provide a number of supplies: condoms, lube, pregnancy tests and other necessary items. But they cannot be there for all sexual health needs and concerns.

Sexual health is an important part of students’ lives

In an age where the average University student will have unprotected sex 12 times, the needs of students stretch beyond what the Collegiate System alone can offer. Furthermore, these supplies come out of JCR money, which is limited in its welfare spending.

In an already adverse situation, matters could become worse due to the University’s expansion plans, igniting the issue. Local medical provisions in this area will be stretched to a breaking point.

Frankly, is it ethical for the University to spend what it expects to be £350 million between 2017-2027 on their expansion projects, but yet cannot provide the essential welfare programs in this regard for the current student cohort when other universities do guarantee this?

Of course not. I don’t believe, however, that the university are in any way responsible for the individual sexual health of all students. We are, of course, all adults.

However, when the provisions are so limited, as they are in Durham, it is not about the individual. It is about what the University can do to ensure the required provisions to protect the welfare of all students here.

Image by Steven Lee via Flickr 

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