The Daily Gamecock

USC ranks 10th in Trojan Condoms' sexual health rankings

South Carolina scores 2.21 GPA on annual Trojan report card

When it comes to safe sex, USC is not on top like it was two years ago.

But the university is much closer than it was last year, according to Trojan Condoms’ annual Sexual Health Report Card.

The 2011 evaluation ranked South Carolina 10th out of 141 universities nationwide, based on scores in 13 categories varying from student opinion of campus health centers and website usability to condom availability and HIV and other STI testing. USC finished first in Trojan’s 2009 rankings but fell to No. 30 in 2010.

This year, the university’s sexual health GPA was a 2.21 out of a possible 4.0, according to Bert Sperling, the lead researcher of Sperling’s BestPlaces, the company Trojan contracted to conduct the research for the report card. While that score might seem low, it still put USC among the top in the nation and Sperling said South Carolina achieved good grades across the board.

“[USC] scored particularly high in student peer groups and sexual assault programs and services,” Sperling said. “One of the areas [the university] rose in was contraceptives for women ... drop-ins and appointments rose as well.”

Sperling attributed USC’s 20-spot jump in the rankings to the availability of peer groups, student group outreach, sexual assault programs, 24-hour hotlines and an easy-to-use sexual health website. Project Condom, a yearly fashion show in which USC students make outfits out of condoms, also scored South

Carolina extra points for “reducing the stigma” of the contraceptives, Sperling said.

“[South Carolina’s] scores rose in every category,” Sperling said.

Shameka Wilson, USC’s sexual health coordinator, took on her role in July of 2011, so she said she wasn’t sure how the rankings had changed so drastically in past years.

She did say the Sexual Health Office separated from the Office of Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention and Prevention last year, and that change may have caused an increase in USC’s score.

“Our services haven’t changed much,” Wilson said. “We still do a lot of outreach and consultations, and our office is open pretty much every day from 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.).”

Sperling said the rankings vary from year to year, due to the fact that universities around the country are always changing and updating their programs.

“[USC] can keep doing what [it’s] doing — everyone else is making changes to their program as well,” Sperling said. “Anywhere in the top 20 percent or so is not changing around.”

Wilson said the No. 10 ranking accurately reflects the university’s efforts to spread awareness and promote sexual health.

“I think we’re doing a great job of listening to students,” Wilson said. “We try to give students what they want and what they need in terms of sexual health services.”

Bruce Tetreault, Trojan’s group product manager, said South Carolina should be cherish its top-10 spot.

“It’s a tremendous achievement you should be proud of,” he said. “To be in the top 10 is fantastic. It shows the university cares about the sexual health of its students.”

Tetreault said the national sexual health statistics are not good — one in four people will have an STI by the time they turn 25 — but that through increased awareness and prevention, Trojan hopes to lower that number.

“How can we reduce that statistic? Make sexual education more available and make students at schools like the University of South Carolina more aware,” he said.

The University of Florida, which ranked eighth in the report card, was the only Southeastern Conference school to score higher than USC.

But the difference between Florida’s sexual health program and USC’s came down to a single GPA point.

“It’s actually pretty close,” Sperling said. “[Florida] scored a little bit better as far as information for condoms and hours of operation.”

Clemson University improved its ranking from No. 131 in 2010 to No. 86 this year. Sperling said Clemson’s still relatively low ranking was due to a number of factors.

“They have a minimal advice column,” Sperling said. “The website isn’t as easy to use and informative as USC’s. Their drop-ins and hours aren’t as good. It’s still a good program ... The competition is tightening up.”

Tetreault emphasized that the report card looks solely at a university’s sexual health offerings and not at the actual amounts of sexual activity or STI rates of the student body.

However, with recent reports indicating that Southern states have some of the highest rates of AIDS and other STIs in the nation, the SEC’s overall rank of fourth in the nation after the Ivy League, Big Ten and PAC-12 in sexual health is a positive, Sperling said.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’ll have that impact on the community, so it’s very encouraging.”