Two students in Imperial’s Department of Public Health have started a Sexual Health campaign to provide sexual health services and education to Imperial students. The campaign started with the WE Innovate program, in which MSc Public Health students Harumi Quezada Yamamoto and Clara Greiner decided to focus on sexual health education and access, after noticing that the London boroughs where Imperial College has campuses also have some of the highest STI rates in the city. A survey organised by the group found over 20% of respondents had not been tested for any major STIs.
The group has teamed up with two clinics in London, including the Jefferiss Wing in St. Mary’s hospital, in order to provide both free STI check-ups and take-home testing kits to students. Yamamoto states they were able to set up these clinics because all Imperial students are entitled to NHS services. Additionally, the group has set up campaign stalls on the South Kensington and Charing Cross campuses in order to provide information and spark discussion on safe sex.
Yamamoto says that a barrier to STI testing for Imperial students is the absence of an accessible sexual health clinic on the campus. In order to get tested, students must first book an appointment with the Imperial Health Clinic, and then, after attending that appointment, make another appointment with a sexual health clinic for testing – a lengthy process, with bookings sometimes taking weeks. Most students do not have the time or patience to wait that long, and therefore ignore STI testing or sexual health education.
The group also says there is still stigma against talks on sexual health at the university. Out of the 114 students who took the group’s survey on sexual health, 33% said they would not get tested for STI’s if there were testing services available on campus, and 50% said they are against or unsure about making their partner get tested.
Much of this stigma comes from cultural and family taboos of sex, and the campaign wants to normalize talk of sexual health. Yamamoto told Felix that thinking about sexual health and safe sex does not involve just one person, but also those with whom they are sexually active, and it is therefore imperative to spread awareness as much as they can around the school.
The group hopes this campaign is just the start of empowering these types of discussions at Imperial; Yamamoto told Felix she hopes “generations to come continue pushing for it to be something…in Imperial’s agenda for students.”
The campaign will take place from 11:00 to 16:00 on Wednesday 23 May in rooms G23 and G24 in the Sir Alexander Fleming building, and on Wednesday 16 May in interview rooms A & B in the Reynolds Building on the Charing Cross campus. STI testing is done on each of these days, and online booking through their Facebook group is required. Additionally, St. Mary’s Hospital’s Jefferiss Wing will provide take-home testing kits for students throughout May.