Free condom dispensers installed in three dorms
Male latex condoms available at four locations across campus in pilot program
Four free condom dispensers have been installed around AU in a pilot program to assure the sexual health of AU students, Mickey Irizarry, Director of the Student Wellness Center said.
The Wellness Center installed the dispensers, which offer regular male latex condoms, in Hughes, McDowell and Cassell halls, as well as in the Student Health Center. Irizarry said the Wellness Center, in conjunction with the Residence Hall Association who provided the funding, chose to pilot the program in upperclassman dorms.
Irizarry said she aims to expand the program and install dispensers in every residence hall at AU.
“Whether we provide condoms or not, students are having sex,” Irizarry said. “This is our job, is to provide education and protective materials … so that students can have safer and healthier sex.”
A National College Health Assessment survey conducted in the spring of 2015 found that while 43.5 percent of AU students reported having vaginal sex in the past 30 days, only 60 percent of respondents said they mostly or always used contraception during sexual encounters.
“It’s great that it’s 60 percent, but it should be higher,” Irizarry said.
Irizarry, who began working at AU one year ago, said ideas related to free condom distribution had been circulating for years. Irizarry formally introduced the concept in January and dispensers were installed two months later, in March.
“I think everybody was just on board,” she said. Dispensers allow for two or three to be taken at a time so that students do not “dump the whole bowl out,” Irizarry said. Peer Wellness Educators check and refill the dispensers each week, as well as the front desk staff in each residence hall.
The dispensers were installed in discrete locations to limit potential embarrassment and encourage students to take them, she said.
The project was not a significant expense – contraceptives are free, courtesy of the The District of Columbia Department of Health’s monthly deliveries.
“We get more than enough,” Irizarry said. “Tons of boxes every month.”
The dispensers cost between $75 and $100 each, Irizarry said, and is funded by the Residence Hall Association.
Regular male latex condoms are the only form of contraception available in the dispensers. Vice President of Advocacy and Community Cooperation Zach Avis said the next step in the initiative is to diversify the contraceptive options to ensure every AU student is able to have protected sex.
“We wanted to have the trial run happening this semester, before fall,” Avis said. “Now we have to fix the kinks.” Avis’ tenure concludes this semester, however he plans to inform his successors of the initiative so that it continues to expand, he said.
Internal condoms were too large to fit in the dispensers, Irizarry said. A variety of contraceptives, including internal condoms, various sizes of male condoms, dental dams, and lubricant are free at the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.