The Sexual Health Centre is based out of Bridgewater and primarily has served the Lunenburg County area. However the organization is taking the first steps to create an outreach program for people in Queens County to access within the boarders.
The centre offers a wide variety of services, including councilling, referrals, free condoms and lubricant, along with a host of information on topics relating to sexual health.
The service is well used in Lunenburg County, especially during the school year. Now the centre is seeing what they can offer for Queens County with a trial program, headed by outreach coordinator Sharon Woodill.
The program will provide sexual health services now, and see what might be needed in the community for the future. However the hope is to set up a permanent base in the community.
Woodill started working in Queens County at the beginning of May, one day a week at the Gorham Adult High School and another at Liverpool Regional High School. The trial is taking a break for August, but will return to the schools once the new school year begins.
“During that time, I had an office set up where people could visit me one on one and I had supplies I could provide,” Woodill says.
She also went around to classes to give presentations on a whole range of topics regarding safer sex, abstinence practices and Sexually Transmitted Infections. It wasn’t just a straight presentation though. She was also there to listen to what the students wanted to know too.
“One of the topics curiously that came up over and over again was the issue of tattoos and piercings,” she says.
STI’s from tattoo and piercing shops are a growing concern, she says, and there are things people need to watch out for before going.
There are other topics that Woodill has heard that would be of interest to the youth of the community as well. For example, there are no organizations in the community to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth.
There is a lot of work that can be done with youth on healthy relationships as well.
“I know people want to keep the community vibrant, and one of the ways to do that I think is to take care of the kids. I think (the outreach program) can make a contribution to that.” - Sharon Woodill, outreach coordinator
Woodill is lives in Halifax, and she says that has advantages when talking about sexuality and other issues with the youth. The biggest she says is students seem more comfortable asking serious questions, since she is not likely to know their families.
Though she has been based out of an office while in the community, Woodill says she can travel to where her service is needed.
“I can go to someone’s house or a community centre. I can arrange confidential office space at the family resource centre.”
All someone needs to do is get in contact with the Sexual Health Centre in Bridgewater, she says.
Woodill says it is important to bring services like these to rural communities, because most of the organizations that provide them tend to be in larger urban areas. That makes it difficult for people who do not have access to transportation to use them.
Although much of her work focuses on youth, those of any age can access the services. One area, for example, is the growing senior demographic in our rural population.
“The senior demographic is where STI’s are growing (at one of the higher rates). It’s not something people would think about or want to talk about,” she says. “Sexuality is an important and real part of every persons life.”
The key is to offer a non-judgmental space no matter what a person’s age, orientation, gender or race. For now though, the youth will likely remain her biggest focus.
“I know people want to keep the community vibrant, and one of the ways to do that I think is to take care of the kids. I think this can make a contribution to that.”