By Neale McDevitt
Plus ça change…
According to Amanda Unruh, Student Health Services’Health Promotion Co-ordinator, “most students get their sexual health information from their peers… and that isn’t always a good thing.”
The transmission of inaccurate information can, in worst-case scenarios, lead to transmissions of a decidedly more serious and unwanted kind – the spreading of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.
Unruh hopes yesterday’s launch of the revamped AskDrT.ca website will help reduce STIs and unwanted pregnancies by giving students easy access to accurate information compiled by health professionals.
It was a re-launch or sorts, as the Ask Dr. T website has been up and running for a number of years. The website now provides a full range of STI and contraception information, including a question and answer service manned by Pierre-Paul Tellier (Dr. T.), Director of Student Health Services.
“Youth spend the majority of their time online. It’s how they get their information,” Unruh said. “It made sense to impart messages and information this way – particularly with sexual health. People can go online in the comfort of their own homes and get solid information from health professionals on subjects that aren’t always easy to talk about.”
The website also helps demystify what goes on in a doctor’s office – running users through checkup and testing scenarios step-by-step using animated videos. By the time users decide to make an appointment to see a doctor they will know exactly what to expect, including the types of questions they should ask and will be asked.
Unruh says that misinformation is one of the most insidious problems regarding sexual health. “For example, a lot of women think a pap smear is an STI test, which it isn’t. It’s just testing for specific abnormalities of cells on the cervix,” she said. “And a lot of people think when you go get a general physical, you get tested for STIs, and that isn’t true either.
“Doctors and nurses are resource people because we can’t write prescriptions for ourselves,” Unruh continued. “But we should educate ourselves on the most basic level and take our sexual health under our own care.”
The new Ask Dr. T website is administered by Student Health Services, the same unit that runs the Shag Shop, a student-friendly store that sells condoms, lubricants and other safer sex products at rock-bottom prices while also dispensing information on contraception, STIs and safer sex practices. A drop-in clinic gives students same-day access to medical professionals. Both the Shag Shop and the clinic are located in the Brown Building downtown. The Mac clinic is located in the Centennial Centre. For more information go to www.mcgill.ca/studenthealth/