Ohio State has provided students with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to combat COVID-19, but some college students are looking for a different type of personal protective equipment: contraception.
The Student Wellness Center, the Wilce Student Health Center and the Student Advocates for Sexual Health offer a variety of virtual and in-person resources for sexual wellness ranging from free or low-cost contraceptives to medical treatment and fact-based, conversational sexual education.
“There is a lot of emphasis on physical health, mental health,” Michaela Martin, assistant director of the Student Wellness Center, said. “But your sexual health and safer sex is a component of your physical health and physical well-being.”
Students can buy up to 25 condoms — of varying brands and styles — and barriers for $5 and get two free packets of lubricant through the Condom Club, Martin said. The Condom Club can be accessed in-person at the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Students must first watch a demonstration on how to properly use the materials provided and complete a short quiz before receiving the condoms or barriers, Martin said.
Martin said she is proud of Ohio State students who seek out protective resources such as the Condom Club, especially during the pandemic.
“Safer sex is always important,” Martin said. “It might take a backseat with some of the screenings, but practicing safer sex behaviors also is COVID-19 prevention too.”
Other free sexual health resources typically found at the Student Wellness Center are either held virtually or have been suspended as Ohio State adapts to COVID-19, Martin said.
Ohio State usually offers free testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV at the Student Wellness Center and Multicultural Center, but the program has been suspended due to the pandemic. Instead, Martin said students can get free HIV and STI tests around Columbus, at locations such as Equitas Health located at 4400 N. High St. and Out of the Closet at 1230 N. High St.
A complete list of STI and HIV local testing sites around campus can be found on the Student Wellness Center’s website, Martin said. If a student lives outside of Columbus, the Student Wellness Center can provide them with a list of testing centers in their area.
The student health center still offers many of the same sexual health services, including annual preventative health exams, breast exams, pap smears and pelvic exams are among the available gynecologic services provided prior to COVID-19, Dr. Gladys Gibbs, director of Student Health Services, said in an email. Under men’s health services, the website said STI screenings and concerns regarding genitalia and sexual function can be discussed through a telehealth visit, according to the website. A full list of services can be found on the Student Health Services website.
These services can be scheduled through BuckMD, and the website states students are responsible for ensuring their insurance covers these services. A complete list of accepted insurance companies can be found on the Student Health Services website.
Contraceptives, including but not limited to birth control pills and Nexplanon, a contraceptive implant, are available at the student health center, Gibbs said.
The student health center offers consultations for patients looking to start birth control and appointments for continued prescriptions written by clinicians not associated with the Student Health Center, Gibbs said. An in-person or telehealth appointment scheduled online via BuckMD is required for a student’s initial prescription.
The Student Health Services pharmacy provides emergency contraceptives Ella, Plan B One-Step and My Way, Gibbs said.
Gibbs said Ella is typically covered by most insurances, and Alan Sung, pharmacy technician with Student Health Services, said My Way is currently available for $40.99 and a generic form of Plan B One-Step is available for $13.25 at the pharmacy.
Student Life Student Health Services also provides consultations for intrauterine devices, according to its website. Consultations can be scheduled through BuckMD.
The Student Wellness Center also delivers synchronous and asynchronous virtual presentations relating to sexual health and relationships, titled “Buck-I-Care About Consent” and “Let’s Talk About Sex,” Martin said.
Martin said it is important Ohio State students have access to foundational sexual education and a space where they feel comfortable seeking help for their own health and safety.
“We are adamant about promoting sexual health education that is evidence based and grounded in science to all of Ohio State’s students,” Martin said. “And making it in a relatable way where it is not stigmatized, taboo, uncomfortable to talk about.”
Student Advocates for Sexual Health dedicate a week to inclusive, fact-based sex education for Ohio State students called Sex Week, Emma King, a 2020 graduate in psychology and political science and president of the organization, said. Sex Week will take place Feb. 14-20 this year, and all events will be held virtually.
King said Sex Week aims to educate students beyond their K-12 curriculum, striving to expand sexual education to include information about LGBTQ issues, healthy relationships, gender roles and more sexual health topics not typically covered in the U.S. school system.
“Sex ed is not just limited to the physcial act of sex, I think there’s so much more,” King said. “We try to be inclusive in terms of that.”