Sexual Health Roundup: Condoms at Catholic Schools, Meds for STI-Exposed Partners, and Bacon-Flavored Condoms

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Sexual Health Roundup: Condoms at Catholic Schools, Meds for STI-Exposed Partners, and Bacon-Flavored Condoms

Martha Kempner

This week, Boston College gets support for its decision to halt student condom distribution, Nebraska tries to pass an expedited partner treatment law, and the bacon condom arrives just in time for April Fool's Day (but it's not a joke).

Sexual Health Roundup is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Boston College Threatens Students Who Distribute Condoms

Students at Boston College have been attempting to make up for the administration’s anti-condom policy by taking matters into their own hands. They have created Safe Sites, a network of dorm rooms and other locations where free condoms and safe-sex information are available to students. Though the administration of the Catholic college has known about this program for over two years, it only recently took action, sending a letter on March 15 that threatened disciplinary repercussions, including expulsion, if students did not shut the operation down.

The administration contends the distribution of condoms is in violation of the school’s religious beliefs. School spokesperson Jack Dunn said in a statement, “As a Jesuit, Catholic University, there are certain Catholic commitments that Boston College is called to uphold. We ask our students to respect these commitments, particularly as they pertain to Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of life.”

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Many students, however, believe that safer sex information and access to condoms are too important to be ignored, even if they violate certain beliefs. Lizzie Jekanowski, chairwoman of the BC Students for Sexual Health, which runs the Safe Sites program, told the Boston Globe, “People are having sex on campus both at BC and at other Catholic schools. Catholics and non-Catholics alike need access to this information to make the best decisions for their health.”

In a piece for Rewire last week, three recent Boston College graduates “strongly condemn[ed] the administration’s abrupt and cowardly interference with students’ attempts to educate their peers and provide them with the tools they need to lead healthy lives.”

Their professors are backing them up. The Boston College chapter of the American Association of University Professors said this in a statement, “While it is the university’s right to distribute or not distribute contraceptives through the student health center, we believe that taking disciplinary action against students for lawful actions undertaken in the privacy of their dorm rooms constitutes an infringement of their rights.”

Still, the administration is standing by its threat of action, and many other Catholic colleges have come out in support of the move. According to the Boston Globe, officials at University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, the University of Dayton, Holy Cross, Providence College, and the Catholic University of America have all said that they do not allow students to distribute contraception and that a student who did so could face disciplinary action. As Victor Nakas, a spokesman for Catholic University put it, “One of the teachings of our faith is that contraception is morally unacceptable. Since condoms are a form of contraception, we do not permit their distribution on campus.”

The students are set to meet with administrators at the end of April. In the meantime, they plan to continue the availability of condoms at Safe Sites. The local American Civil Liberties Union has also said it might become involved to protect the rights of the students involved.

Nebraska Law Would Allow for Antibiotic Prescriptions Without the Testing in Some Cases

Lawmakers in Nebraska debated a measure last week that would allow doctors to prescribe antibiotics without an exam to the sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea, two of the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The bill, LB 528, was sponsored by Sara Howard, the newly elected state senator from Omaha. Howard says she is concerned with the high rates of STIs in her area (there were more than 3,300 cases of chlamydia and more than 860 cases of gonorrhea reported in Douglas County last year) and wants to make it easier for doctors to stop the spread of the disease, especially among individuals who are unwilling or unable to go to the doctor.

Under the bill, doctors would be required to write the partner’s name on the prescription and would be asked to follow procedures set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for calling the partner and asking about possible drug allergies. An amendment added to the bill would also require physicians to give general STI information along with the prescription.

The practice is called Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT), and it is supported by public health experts, including the CDC.  According to a fact sheet published but the National Coalition of STD Directors and the Council of State Government, EPT works:

Patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea who received EPT were:

  • More likely to report that all of their sexual partners were treated than those who were told to refer their partners for treatment;

  • Less likely to report having sex with an untreated partner; and

  • Less likely to be diagnosed with another infection at a follow-up visit.

State laws on the subject vary. According to a CDC analysis of the law, 32 states have laws or policies that allow EPT (it is also allowed on a pilot basis in Baltimore); EPT is “potentially allowable” in 11 additional states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; and seven states have laws or policies that likely prohibit EPT. Nebraska is currently one of the 11 states in which EPT is “potentially allowable.” Howard, however, believes the law is important because it would allow doctors to feel more comfortable prescribing STI treatment to partners.

Some lawmakers disagree, arguing that providing prescriptions without a visit or a test is bad medicine. State Senator Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, for example, said she was worried about the bill because prescription drugs have risky side effects, and it’s unclear who would be responsible for follow-up care if a prescription is given without an office visit.

A similar measure was introduced last year but fell just a few votes short of passing.

Bacon Condoms: Coming to a Store Near You

This is not a late April Fool’s joke. J&D Foods, the manufacturer of everything bacon, has just released bacon condoms.  Not only do these new condoms taste and smell like bacon, they feature images of bacon as well—hence the product’s tagline, “Make your meat look like meat.”

The company, which also makes bacon sunscreen, bacon lip balm, bacon-flavored envelopes, and a bacon-themed coffin, claims that its newest product is “proudly made in America of the highest quality latex and rigorously tested to help ensure the utmost reliability and safety for when you’re makin’ Bacon.”

I’m all for more condoms, better condoms, and condoms that people will enjoy wearing, but I’m not sure this is what the market really needed.