Wellness fair brings sexy back to safe

By BenitaZepeda

Columbia’s Wellness Center will host a Safe Sex Fair April 14, where students can learn all the dirty details regarding safe sex practices and even snag a free condom or two.

The Safe Sex Fair will be located at the Residence Center, 731 S. Plymouth Court, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Various components of the fair will include free massage therapy, LGBTQ resources, facts on sexual health and relationship and domestic violence resources.

The Wellness Center holds one fair per semester, but Mark O’Brien, coordinator of Student Relations, said this event is a comprehensive safe sex fair for students and is the first time the fair’s theme is specifically about safe sex and preventative measures.

“It provides campus and community resources for students related to sexual health and relationships,” O’Brien said. “There is a wide range of agencies and campus offices that will be represented.”

The Office of Student Relations will be at the fair along with different organizations that will present students with various components, such as alcohol awareness, to give students knowledge about unsafe behaviors that could potentially be harmful if not paid attention to.

John Michael Quinn, assistant director of Student Relations, was responsible for creating the alcohol information section of the fair. Quinn said they are partnering with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s new program called “Don’t Be Sorry.”

“What this program talks about [are] the penalties for underage drinking and alcohol possession,” Quinn said. “It talks about the bottom line about fake IDs, but more importantly, it gives students a comprehensive look at the effects of what alcohol does.”

Quinn said the fair is a way to provide another service to students. Alcohol can be directly related to safe sex practices, especially with young adults.

“We’re promoting safe sex because what the consequences can lead to are a lot of people experiencing unsafe sex as a result [of] not knowing when to stop [drinking],” Quinn said.

This is the first time the Wellness Center is taking a more preventative route during a wellness fair, Quinn said. The center will be handing out buttons, stickers and informational pamphlets about the “Don’t Be Sorry” program.

In addition to the campus organizations, others present at the fair will include Alcoholics Anonymous, Bridging the Gap, Counseling Services, Planned Parenthood and the Howard Brown Youth Center, which works with LGBTQ youth in the community.

“There will be resources for agencies that work with people who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence,” O’Brien said. “Counseling Services with the college will talk about relationship counseling.”

Jackie Sowinski-Hamlett, director of Counseling Services, said in addition to the free 24-hour online screening already in place about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse, there will be quizzes that tie into the safe sex theme.

“We’re offering relationship quizzes and STD/HIV quizzes to test student knowledge on whether or not the relationship is healthy, as well as safe sex and ways to keep them protected and healthy in relationships,” Sowinski-Hamlett said.

Counseling Services will have a table set up where students can be quizzed.  They will then meet with therapists to discuss the results of their quiz and ask any questions they might have. There will also be safe sex bags that contain condoms, lubricant and STD fact sheets that include the STD/HIV screening dates at Columbia.

O’Brien said wellness fairs are popular events and he is always impressed by how engaged students are in health and wellness programs. He said even if students want to come and socialize, they can check out events and have free sandwiches.

“It’s nice because you can just walk in, hang out with your friends, walk around at your leisure and participate as you choose,” O’Brien said. “Even if you want to just have some lunch and hang out with your friends, that’s an option too.”