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Practice safer loving with your valentine

Safer Loving, a safe sex fair, marked the start of National Condom Week on Valentine’s Day.

The event was organized by Health Programs in cooperation with Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, PPGG. On the UC Berkeley campus, Feb. 14 is celebrated as National Condom Day. Mills celebrated the day in a way that would include all members of its community.

“The demographics of Mills are different, said Daisy Gonzales, co-president of ASMC and co-organizer of the Wednesday, Feb. 14, safer sex fair,” so to make it more inclusive, we called it Safer Loving. We’re here just to give out free information and free goodies.”

Safer Loving took place on the Tea Shop steps with representatives at four tables, one each from the Tang Center, PPGG, the ASMC and the Career Center. The ASMC, launched its newsletter and handed out free tacos, and the Career Center offered informational handouts out as well, all with the theme of Valentine’s Day.

“We’re here to promote safer sex,” said Corin Moody, a registered nurse from the Tang Center. “We want students to know that emergency contraception is now available over the counter at Tang. Just go to pharmacy and they’ll take it from there.”

Emergency contraception, brand name Plan B, can help prevent pregnancy when taken 72 hours or less after sex.
“Unfortunately,” said Moody, “since it’s over the counter, SHIP doesn’t cover the cost.”

SHIP is the Student’s Health Insurance Plan, offered to students without other insurance coverage.

According to the Tang Center’s Web site, the over the counter cost of emergency contraception is $30. However, women younger than 18 years of age still need to get a prescription in order to access the contraceptive.

The Tang Center’s table had a variety of safer-sex handouts, ranging from Valentine’s Day themed lollipops with condoms attached to them, to dental dams wrapped around Twizzlers and chocolates with safer sex tips, like: “Drugs and alcohol can cause you to make unsafe choices” and “Get tested for STIs.” STIs are sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea and genital herpes.

“The condom-lollipops were gone immediately,” said Moody.

Maya Ingram, the Public Affairs Manager for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, said she was there to hand out “condoms, candy and to action network.”

Along with handing out condoms, lubricant samples and buttons with pictures of condoms on them, the Planned Parenthood table featured both a contest comprised of guessing how many condoms were in a jar and a sign-up sheet that solicited involvement in their action network.

“So much happens at the state and federal levels that affects what we’re able to do, so it’s important to become involved, especially now during the budget cycle,” said Ingram.
Ingram discussed the benefits of using condoms. “They’re non-hormonal, so that’s good for some couples. But, they’re also a good way to back up hormonal birth control. It’s also a good way for men to participate in pregnancy prevention and STI prevention.”

Both the Tang Center and Planned Parenthood tables had condoms and informational handouts. Even though the Tang Center’s table had dental dams, which couples can use to prevent transmitting STIs during cunnilingus, oral stimulation of female genitalia, there were no latex gloves, another barrier method that couples can use to prevent STIs during manual stimulation and penetration, either vaginal or anal.

“We find that when we have gloves, students don’t really take them or two students take a couple each,” said Moody.

Gonzales agreed and added, “We wanted to have dental dams, even though they’re more expensive, because they’re more exciting.”

“We also want to emphasize them more,” said Moody. “For whatever reason, students feel they don’t need them. Oral sex transmits STIs. For example, you can get gonorrhea through oral sex in your throat, but it just feels like a regular sore throat. So you don’t get tested, and you can pass it on to someone else,” she said.

Whether using condoms or dental dams, students should protect themselves during oral sex, said Moody. She added that condoms should also be used on sex toys.

The Safer Loving fair was organized last semester by Gonzales and Cynthia Turner, Mills’ Health Program Director. Turner is on medical leave this semester, and Moody came to help Gonzales in Turner’s stead.

Students can find free safer sex supplies in Cowell anytime of the year.