Sexual health forum promotes awareness, safety

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Jennifer Green, administrative director and local health officer Riley County Health Department, speaks during the sexual healthcare forum in the Kansas State Student Union in Manhattan, Kan. on Aug. 30, 2017. (Photo by Justin Wright | Collegian Media Group)

Students and speakers gathered at the Student Union on Wednesday to openly discuss the topic of sexual health. Speakers discussed the topic from multiple angles by presenting relevant statistics, describing ongoing legal battles and discussing the connection between sexual health and socioeconomic status.

“This event is important because it promotes an ongoing awareness to what challenges confront all people of all ages, of all races … et cetera,” Jean DeDonder, nursing coordinator at Lafene Health Center, said.

Organizations like the K-State Young Democrats, Feminists Igniting Resistance and Empowerment (FIRE) and Sexuality And Gender Alliance (SAGA) sponsored the event, hoping to promote awareness of sex education.

“I think being more informed is important,” Rachel Hunt, sophomore in biology and treasurer of SAGA, said. “A lot of people view sexual health as something we don’t talk about, and I think it needs to be talked about a lot more in order to keep kids safe. If you don’t have enough knowledge about safe sex and sexual health, it’s really easy to have unintended pregnancies and STIs and STDs.”

Data presented by the Riley County Health Department shows that Riley County’s rate of STDs is significantly higher compared to other counties in Kansas. In July 2017 alone, 247 cases of chlamydia were reported along with 49 cases of gonorrhea. The majority of STD cases were reported among people between the ages of 20 and 24, and the number of cases increases when the fall semester begins.

According to CountyHealthRankings.org, Riley County has the second highest number of newly diagnosed cases of chlamydia per 100,000 population members in the state with 594 diagnoses in 2017, second only to Wyandotte County with 726 cases.

To combat high numbers of infection, Lafene Health Center provides services and education for students to maintain their sexual health, but for the rest of Riley County there are only two publicly funded clinics. Many surrounding counties lack publicly funded clinics entirely, due to closures from regulations or insufficient funds.

Micah Kubic, executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, spoke about protecting future access to sexual health care.

“I hope students understand that these are rights that should not be taken for granted,” Kubic said, “in the sense that there are people trying to undermine existing systems. You can’t do something about that until you know about it. You shouldn’t assume that everything is done and over, and that access to sexual and reproductive health care is guaranteed, because it’s not. It’s under attack, we have to stand up and say something about it in order to defend it.”

More information about sexual health is available at Lafene Health Center or at the Riley County Health Department. Students are encouraged to ask questions and stay informed about their bodies so they can make the best possible decisions for themselves.

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Hi there! I’m Leah Zimmerli, the Features Editor. I’m a freshman in political science and journalism from Overland Park, Kansas. I love dogs and making music playlists for my friends. I’m studying journalism because I believe that everyone has a story, and I believe that it is my job as a journalist to help you share yours.