While walking past a residential hall front desk, students may notice a new addition — a condom dispenser, free for anyone to use.
Northwest’s Green Dot Coordinator Ben Moran and Residential Life partnered with the Buchanan County Health Department to provide students with free condom contraceptives to allow easy access to resources for safer sex.
“They reached out and had some conversations and said, ‘Hey, could we potentially get these into the halls to get tools and knowledge into students' hands?’ So working with Buchanan County and Res Life, we were able to get this going,” Moran said.
This is not a new resource brought to campus, he said, but it is being presented in a different way. Wellness Center offers certain contraceptives every day of the week, but they thought bringing them into the residential halls where students mainly are would be beneficial.
“The reality is that they’re hotspots,” Moran said. “If you live in (Hudson-Perrin Halls) and you need a condom, odds are you’re not walking to the Wellness Center to get it, and if it’s late at night, you can’t. Now, they’re there if you need them.”
Moran said within the first week of the dispensers being placed in the halls, over 1,200 condoms were distributed. Though the location of these have helped with outreach, Moran and Residential Life have been talking about putting in more dispensers on campus because of privacy. The fear is some students won’t want to go to the front desk because it is out in the open.
HIV Prevention Navigator for the St. Joseph Health Department LaRay Thompson is in charge of all things dealing with HIV education and prevention and has been working since August to bring these dispensers to campus.
“I, personally, think this is needed on college campuses because young people are going to be sexually active,” Thompson said. “You're learning about yourself and you're in a diverse atmosphere, so the settings are going to be a lot different. You're in the open, and you're going to be more prone to doing things you've never done before or learning things about yourself that you never came across.”
On the back of the dispensers, there is information about HIV prevention, what consent is, services that Wellness Center offers, University Police contact information and more to help students stay safe.
Assistant Director of Residential Life Michael Miller said they wanted them somewhere where students could see them, and the residential assistants could help distribute them to students.
“Even if we can help just one person have a safer experience, it’s worth it to provide,” Miller said.
Though this is supporting Northwest students, the condoms are being provided by the Buchanan County Health Department through the Ending HIV Epidemic grant.
The money is aimed to be used to reduce HIV infection to zero percent by 2025, but Thompson also wants to use it to help end the stigma around the virus.
“Missouri received the grant, and, basically, that was to educate the state of Missouri through a position, which is my position, to get people to get rapid testing and to help with any stigma behind that,” Thompson said. “A lot of the people are not wanting to follow through with that because of the finances and the stigma around it.”
The free condom dispensers are not only at Northwest, but are at Missouri Western as well. Thompson is hoping to spread this to other schools in the region, she said, but is glad they hit the bigger schools in the area.
“We wanted to give it to students, and so they have the knowledge to protect themselves because science changes every day,” Thompson said.