As soon as condom dispensers were installed in Cal State Long Beach’s bathrooms, they needed to be restocked.
In a recent study conducted by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, it was reported that almost 50 percent of college students were not practicing safe sex.
In an attempt to combat this statistic, the “¡Salud a la Vida! | Cheers to Life!” project staff of the CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training dispensed over 100,000 condoms on campus before Sept. 30.
The project staff set up seven dispensary locations in restrooms on campus, with five located in the University Student Union and two in the Student Recreation Wellness Center.
The initiative started in 2014 after 12 focus groups were conducted by the project staff on campus to assess student needs. Aimed at Latino students aged 18 to 24 but open to everyone, findings from the group revealed that students were not receiving proper access to condoms on campus.
“We took it upon ourselves to work together with the Student Health Center, [Associated Student, Inc.] and the governing board to see how we could bring the condom dispensers to campus,” said Erika Bonilla, manager of the center for Latino Community Health Program.
Partnering with L.A. Condoms, a public education campaign by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, university staff were able to receive funding for the condoms.
“[Long Beach] has been the vanguard of schools for this initiative,” said Mara Bird, director of the center for Latino Community Health.
The condom dispensers were unveiled on campus in February 2016. Within the first weekend, the dispensers were empty.
“We filled them up on Friday, and by Monday [they were] empty,” Bonilla said. “We thought it was vandalism.”
Each dispenser contained about 100 latex condoms, varying in sizes, and could be found in male, female and gender neutral restrooms on campus.
The two dispensaries at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center have been the most popular, with the dispensaries sometimes emptying within an hour after being restocked.
While they currently only provide male condoms, 500 female condoms were purchased by the organization and have been offered to students who attend “¡Salud a la Vida! | Cheers to Life!” Workshops.
Although students with allergies to latex might feel discouraged from using the dispensers, some such as junior political science major Nicholas Padron are relieved the majority will have access to condoms.
“I don’t really think it’s a big deal they only have latex,” Padron said. “I’ve only met a handful of people that need lambskin condoms. I’m just happy to have the free option.”
Along with providing students access to condoms, the workshops held on campus have given over 300 HIV tests since the start of the program.
Funding for the program will end in April, but the dispensers will still be replenished on campus. The Student Health Center will maintain the five dispensaries in the Student Union and the Student Recreation Center will maintain the other two.
“We’re excited that we reached our goal,” Bonilla said. “We’ll probably stop recording information on the condoms after funding ends, but we’ll still be making sure students are getting access.”
A research seminar is planned to be held on Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. in room 205 ABC of the University Student Union to discuss the results of the project.