A typical, awkward sex talk between a teacher and student or parent and child differed from the dialogue that occurred at this university’s 3rd annual Condom Fashion Show held in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp March 2.
The Condom Fashion Show featured models from nine different clubs, organizations, fraternities and sororities decorated in outfits made mostly from condoms.
UMD’s Sex Week held the event in anticipation of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on April 10. Sex Week is a student-run organization that provides sexual health and wellness information to students and aims to create meaningful and healthy dialogues.
Kellen Weigand, sophomore biomedical engineering major and vice chair of public relations of Sex Week, said that although most STIs are curable, the event seeks to promote STI testing and increase awareness about STIs like HIV while still decreasing the stigmas surrounding these infections.
People are often scared of words like HIV and herpes, and while people should take every measure to protect themselves, infected people are often the victims of the stereotypes that surround the virus. Weigand said, “HIV, herpes, the other viral infections, they can’t be cured but they can totally be treated and you can have a healthy, well-rounded sex life.”
Sree Sinha, co-founder and former president of Sex Week, started the show by introducing facts about sexual health. Every month, 1,000 youths between the ages 13 and 24 are infected with HIV in the United States, and 76,000 young people are currently living with HIV.
Each condom outfit had a theme ranging from Little Bo Beep to flapper girl. Sinha said by using condoms in a fun and celebratory way we are able to denounce the “hush-hush” attitude about sexual protection and start a necessary discussion about sexual awareness.
Irwin Royster, Candice Young and Connor Davies judged the event. Royster is Co-Chairman for the Sexually Transmitted Infections Community Coalition (STICC), Young is a Disease Control Specialist for the Prince George’s County Health Department, and Davies is a representative for Bedsider, a free support network for birth control.
The judge’s criteria was based on creativity, the actual garment and its educational message. Before each candidate walked the runway, the model or a representative from the group spoke about the group and gave a quick message about sexual health.
Leah Prince, sophomore food security and sustainability major, introduced Talia Hoch, sophomore community and behavioral health major. The two represented HEALTH Works, a Peer Education Program that sets out to increase student’s awareness of general wellness. Hoch was dressed in a boxing costume.
Before second place winner Hoch walked the runway, Prince said, “Just like a boxer needs their gloves to perform in the ring, it’s important to use a condom when you’re performing in the bedroom or wherever you prefer. Condoms are the only contraceptive that ensures great protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. No glove, no love.”
Izzy Bell, senior community health major, won first place. He is part of the SHARE (Sexual Health And Reproductive Education) program that aims to increase each student’s knowledge about contraceptive options, awareness about STI’s and the services the University Health Center offers.
Bell believes that events like these are better at relaying information than reading from a textbook in class.
“I feel like it’s not a topic that’s widely discussed, specifically normalizing condom behaviors so I felt like this would be a perfect [place] where I could come out and support,” he said. “I’m really big on sexual health, it’s something we always do but it’s not something we talk about so I thought it was really important to come out and show some moves.”
Attendee Sumouni Basu, senior biomedical engineering major, said it was great to see different groups and programs from all over campus to join together under one cause. She believes students should get more involved in events like these because they create a fun yet informational environment.
“Awareness is important for everyone, whether they’re here or not, whether they’re sexually active or not, it’s something that may be misleading or might be hard to talk about otherwise, so I think [people] coming to this, without having to put in effort themselves, they can learn about it and have fun,” Basu said.
Sex Week provided free condoms, information and prevention tips to attendees. The University Health Center offers free STI testing the third Thursday of every month.
Featured Photo Credit: (Left to Right)- First place winner Izzy Bell (Senior, Community Health). Second place sinner Talia Hoch (Community and Behavioral Health), and third place winner Noreen Mira (Sophomore, Public Health Science). All celebrating their victories. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Reporter)
Allie Melton is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.