Fumbling in the Dark: Sexual Health Policies Reviewed
story Scott Currie, Staff Writer
Last year, Yale-NUS College had many sexual health resources in the pipeline, ranging from a more comprehensive education program to a review of the insurance policy. But, as any sexually related medical expenses remain uncovered by the insurance policy and students remain unsure about resources, there is a need to review what has changed.
For students, there is uncertainty as to what is available for them and where they can locate resources. “I don’t think that there’s any change [from the previous campus],” said Lishani Ramanayake ’18. She said the only major changes she noticed were that the College now provided free condoms, a service the G-Spot had previously handled, and the free pregnancy tests at the Health Center.
Rachel Lim ’18 echoed this sentiment that there was not much information about sexual health. Diversity and Inclusion Manager Sara Amjad said that the school is aware of gaps in accessibility of information and that in approximately two weeks the College will release a pamphlet containing basic information about sexual health. She said she also hoped to build an online FAQ section on Singapore-specific sexual health resources by the end of the semester, at the latest.
Yale-NUS College recently launched its Health Center, overseen by Health Coordinator Doris Yek. Ms. Yek said that it could provide support for the physical side of sexual health, with pregnancy tests available free of charge. The Center was created to help increase convenience for students and lower any embarrassment students may feel about sexual health issues.
The school’s new Health Center is completely independent from the University Health Center, and thus cannot provide birth control pills, as they are prescription medicine in Singapore. In addition, the insurance policy for students does not cover any sexually transmitted infections, according to the University Health Center website. The Health Center is working with the Wellness Center and Diversity and Inclusion Office on sexual health issues. Ms. Amjad said that one of the difficulties in sexual health education is that it cannot be clearly demarcated into one staff member’s purview. She described it as “a constant conversation” and that all three branches of the DoS—health, wellness and diversity—seek to “educate our students so they can make responsible choices, and support them in the choices they do make.” Wellness Director Sha-En Yeo agreed and said that the program is not aimed at making choices for students. Rather it seeks to make students “realize that you have choices” and educate individuals to make them “as responsibly as [they] deem fit.”
During the Class of 2019’s orientation, the school flew in two members of Speak About It, an American-based sexual health advocacy group, to begin the conversation about sexual health. Lim, an orientation group leader, felt that the talk was more interesting than the one provided by AWARE (Association For Women for Action and Research) for the Class of 2018’s orientation. They “provided a different perspective towards sexual health and communication,” especially with their use of analogies to explain how healthy relationships function. Ms. Yeo said that the reception for Speak About it was positive, but that “it’s not feasible to fly them in every month.” Building off this, Ms. Amjad stated that they were working on developing an in-house program pertaining to sexual health, which will be tailored to the Singapore as well as Yale-NUS context. Ms. Amjad added, “It doesn’t seem common for these topics to discussed openly in education institutions [in Singapore].” That, coupled with the school’s diverse population, has made it difficult to create universal programs for the community.
The student organization G-Spot is also supporting sexual health education on campus and is conducting an advocacy week, dubbed “Doing it Right”, dedicated to increasing awareness and knowledge about it. This includes events, which predominantly focus on information, such as contraception, access to birth control, and sex education in Singapore. Ramanayake, the G-Spot’s director of Publicity and Outreach, said that it was important to recognize that students “come from different places” and as a consequence there were different “levels of access to sexual health education.”
Doing It Right will run from Nov. 2-12.