SRF056: Talk dirty to me: awareness and use of sexual health primary healthcare resources by university students in Canada.
Madison Pendleton, Student; Sophie Sawler; Michael Cardinal-Aucoin, PhD, MSc; Kristen Booth; Carolyn Arbanas, MD, CCFP, CCFP-EM; Stefania Moro, PhD
Context: The past decade has witnessed a marked increase in STI rates across Canada, particularly among those aged 15-24 yrs. and attending college/university. Various sexual healthcare resources exist on campuses and in surrounding communities, many targeted specifically to the student population. Such resources aim to promote safe sexual practices and reduce STI rates, but are, naturally, only effective if they are being used. Objective: Evaluate university student awareness and use of sexual health primary healthcare resources. Study Design: Structured interviews (qualitative) and cross-sectional survey (quantitative). Web survey administered via Qualtrics. Setting: Campus of St. Francis Xavier University, a residential university in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. Population studied: All students attending St. Francis Xavier University during the 2019-2020 academic year. Outcome Measures: Analysis of survey data by t-test, Mann-Whitney U test, and ANOVA as appropriate, using SPSS. Overview of salient interview responses included. Results: Students are aware of multiple sexual healthcare resources (e.g. campus clinic, family physician, ED, online). Most students would prefer to use on campus resources, but many were unaware of their availability and those who were often learned of them through word of mouth/friends. When seeking information about sexual health, male and female students showed different tendencies: female students relied on physicians over 50% of the time, whereas male students relied heavily on the internet and used physicians only a quarter of the time. Students described often being uncomfortable discussing their sexual health even with a healthcare professional and 84% considered that the topic is still stigmatized. Students reported that family physicians only initiated conversations regarding healthy sexual practices in about two thirds of visits and that the resulting discussions were exceedingly short (average of around 30 s). Conclusions: University students were unaware of many sexual healthcare resources available to them and tended to learn of them through word of mouth/friends. Increasing the visibility of these resources, especially those on campus, can likely help reduce STI rates among this at-risk population. Many students would prefer to talk to a physician about their sexual health but the stigma surrounding the topic often prevents both students and physicians from properly addressing it.