Condoms for all: Thielen Health Center helps students stay sexually proactive


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Free Condom Wednesday

Leah Hansen

Fifty thousand condoms and counting have been given away by Iowa State’s Thielen Student Health Center so far in 2012 in the Condom Distribution program.

Thielen Student Health Center runs Free Condom Wednesday and Free Condom Thursday. They also distribute condoms in the residence halls, some greek chapter houses and other departments around Iowa State.

“[The numbers] have only increased over the years,” said Rachel Pearson, junior in accounting. “We gave out 90,000 condoms [last year]. We only have 2012 recorded up though April, and we already have 50,000 condoms on record that we have given away.”

In 2003, Kerri Roesner, who worked in the Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Office, brought back the idea for condom distribution from a conference she attended. The Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Office started and ran the program until they were unable to sustain it, so Roesner brought it to the staff at Thielen Student Health Center to ask if they could continue it.

The Avoid the Stork campaign at the University of Iowa gave Iowa State 100,000 free condoms. That is when Thielen Student Health Center started to increase efforts to get condoms out to places other than the student health center.

Thielen Student Health Center currently puts on Free Condom Wednesday, which is located on the first floor of the Union Drive Community Center and Free Condom Thursday at the Memorial Union outside the bookstore, down the hall from the Food Court.

“As a student who helps put this together, I also benefit from it because it’s for everybody at Iowa State,” Pearson said. “It shows that the health center cares about us, and they want us to be safe and healthy. It’s the most effective way to help all the students here at Iowa State have a good experience all the way through their college years.”

The Thielen Student Health Center Prevention Services stresses the importance of safe sexual behavior.

“It’s an effective strategy for the prevention of [sexually transmitted infections] and unintended pregnancy. So it’s one of the most effective things we can do, with our population of college students, for sexual health,” said Lauri Dusselier, program coordinator of the Thielen Student Health Center.

Free Condom Wednesday and Free Condom Thursday offer condoms, dental dams and various lubricants for students and staff. Nonlatex condoms are available upon request at the Thielen Student Health Center Prevention Services desk. Students are welcome to approach the booth and take what they want.

“As someone who sits at the booth, it’s usually pretty busy,” Pearson said. “People walk by, and they come up and take what they need. People are very receptive to it. They like having it around.”

Condoms are bought through providers who sell in bulk amounts.

“We buy [condoms] in bulk at bulk prices,” Pearson said. “We just recently switched [brands]: We used to buy Durex because they had a nonprofit price, and [Thielen Student Health Center is] a nonprofit organization, but they recently got rid of that pricing level so we switched to Trojan brand condoms.”

The Health Fee all students pay every semester goes toward funding programs at Thielen Student Health Center.

“Ultimately, it’s student fees through Thielen Student Health Center [that pays for the condoms],” Dusselier said. “Thielen [Student Health Center] is funded by student fees and fees for medical services. Student fees fund Thielen Student Health and then [some of the money] comes to this program.”

Volunteers through the Thielen Student Health Center are currently working on getting Free Condom Wednesday and Thursday up and running for this semester. They hope to have their first day, Wednesday, Sept. 19. The booths are open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“Wednesdays are the most fun because all the freshman go to the [Union Drive Community Center] and are always like: ‘Oh my gosh, condoms!’” Pearson said.