The ridiculousness of such a question is apparent just from asking it. So why does the topic seem to be kept in the shadows, kept akin to a myth or legend that only occurs once in a blue moon in St Andrews? I, for one, think it is time that this ended. With committees like Sexpression training students to teach local school children about the ins and outs of sex, why are such topics avoided in an institution filled with students who’re most likely overdosing on a sudden influx of independence?
Upon deciding to write an article on sexual health in St Andrews (an article I assumed would be fairly easy to research) I regularly came across stumbling blocks and obstacles that I can only assume those who actually need help would also come across. As much as we like to pretend that nothing slightly untoward occurs a St Andrews, there’s no way that no one is having sex.
My first port of call was the University website. I have managed to untangle some of its confusing narrative below for the purpose of this article:
Level 3 school of medicine building, North Haugh – clinic on Tuesday 12.30 pm – 4.00 pm.
(purpose: contraception, sexual health advice and offers routine tests for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, HIV & Syphilis.)
Lines are open Mondays to Fridays 8:30am – 1:30pm.
“Students with more complex problems must been seen elsewhere by calling 01592 647979.“
St Andrews Community Hospital – Clinic on Friday 9 am – 12.30pm
(purpose: contraception, GUM and sexual health advice)
Lines are open 8.30am – 1.30pm Monday to Friday.
Free contraception (condoms, pills, injections, implants)
The page is jumbled and confusing, the same number listed three times for three different clinics and times sending me on what felt like a wild goose chase.
The Your Union website does a moderately better job, appearing slightly more approachable and listing the same number only once.
The NHS operates a student-only Contraception and Sexual Health Clinic (SHACC) every Tuesday 12.30-4.30pm during term time. This clinic is on Eden Court, Gillespie Terrace, The Scores and the reception/waiting area is in the Student Services Office.
The SHACC offers a variety of services: routine contraception, pills, the patch, condoms; routine STI screens for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and HIV; and pregnancy testing. Student with symptoms cannot be seen at this clinic; such individuals need to call 01592 647979 for an appointment.
And so, upon contacting the now abstract concept of a sexual health clinic I was directed to a lady who seemed impatient, told me that the clinic was open once a week for a couple of hours and asked me to describe my symptoms outright. To add to the confusion, she then went on to ask which clinic I would be visiting. This is not acceptable service for someone who would likely be embarrassed, naive and extremely intimidated.
The original St Andrews page also states:
Free condoms are also available from:
- Student Services (Eden Court)
- The Director of Representation and Iain Cupples (Students’ Association, Union Building)
- The Union porter (at night)
- Condom distributors (located in every halls of residence)
So once again, I did some digging. As a resident of DRA, I for one had never seen a condom distributer and assumed that, unlike the other halls of residence, we would have to be charged by the condom machines in the toilet. I assume that they do exist and that if I really went out of my way to find I could. But this seems heavily beside the point. Aside from an evening titled Condoms and Cookies where both items were given in abundance, there has been no easy and well publicised route to obtaining contraception. Does this mean that students were expected to stockpile their stash for the entire year rather than discreetly pick up condoms when needed? This certainly looked like the case.
To give the uni some credit, I managed to obtain contraception at the Union reception (I was given a package containing a large variety of condoms and some lube) on a night out with no questions asked. But as I did so, I was only too aware of how exposed and open the reception area really is, discretion again being something that we have again failed to achieve. In fact, as my face went a chagrinned red, my only consolation was that I was collecting these for an article and not for any exciting antics, a consolation I assume that those actually in need don’t have.
However, feeling slightly more optimistic, I headed to another condom distribution point on the first floor of the Union. Here I was met with a closed office door, behind which sat two female students. I probably swore under my breath as I summoned the courage to knock. When I eventually did, I inquired as to the location of the condom distribution and was met with some vague times and names of the “trained personnel” that would probably be around at some point, maybe. Can we not replace this with a system that is easy to use and becomes common knowledge for all of the University’s residents?
My point is that at St Andrews we pride ourselves on academic excellence. So why does the University fail to provide contraception in easy to reach locations at rational hours? That doesn’t seem very intelligent to me.