Outreach can give sex advice too

October 22, 1999

Promoting awareness of meningitis among students can be a springboard, enabling counsellors to talk to students about other concerns - from sex and drugs to stress and mental health.

In halls of residence and bars at the University of North London, candid discussions are taking place this term on sexual matters, including contraception and negotiation on sexual relationships.

Outreach workers Rachelle Gold and Bernadette Kennedy, both experts in sexual health, have set up stalls to alert students about meningitis. Leaflets on sexual health, drugs, alcohol and mental health are also on display.

Last month, the National Union of Students found nearly one in four female students was having sex without using contraception. So giving informal access to information and a chance to talk through worries is especially timely.

This is the second year that the two-woman team has visited the university. "It is very relaxed," Gold explains. "People take bumph about meningitis and sometimes pick up other leaflets. They go for a drink and then come back with their agendas. Some want more information or one-to-one counselling on safer sex, negotiation, stress, mental health or drugs.

"Many students have wanted to talk to us about sexual matters. Meningitis doesn't stigmatise people, sexual health sometimes does. This is not right, but alerting students to the dangers of meningitis in this way has helped us to get across some useful information on other matters."

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