The Safe Sex Express, previously named the Jonnies from Johnny campaign was established in 2006 by Johnathon Howard, VP Education and Welfare from 2006-08, during his first year in office. This year the Union’s current President, Jade Haley, has relaunched and revamped the campaign. Jonnies for Johnny is a free and confidential condom delivery service for the University of Worcester community. By providing this free service the Students’ Union hopes to save students money, promote good practice and allow students to feel confident in obtaining condoms, which can typically be a nervous or embarrassing situation for some.
So what is sexual health? Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. A recent survey conducted by the Family Planning Association (FPA), a sexual health charity, stated that;
- Young people under 25 experience the highest rates of STIs in the UK
- The peak age for an STI in women is between 19 and 20 years, and in men between 20 and 23 years
- The UK has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe and England
- The average (median) age at first heterosexual intercourse was 16 for both men and women
- 80% of young people aged 16–24 said that they had used a condom when they first had sex
A high proportion of our students fall within the higher-risk age ranges highlighted in the recent survey results. Thus, the issue of positive sexual health quite rightly sits high on the agenda of the Union’s Advice service, which includes Health & Wellbeing, as well as on the agenda of current President, Jade.
The old and the new
Worcester Students’ Union recently reached out to the campaign’s founder and namesake, Johnathon ‘Johnny’ Howard, and asked him some questions about his original campaign.
Why was the campaign created?
Before the campaign became Jonnies for Johnny, originally Jonnies from Johnny, it started with a general sexual health focus, targeted mainly toward new students coming to the University, with the aim of increasing their awareness of sexual health. In 2006 sexual health teaching in schools was often insufficient and standards varied greatly, so I decided this should be my first campaign at Worcester SU.
Where did the idea of providing condoms to students come from?
The inception of 'Jonnies from Johnny' came during a conversation with the local sexual health nurse where I found out that the SU could access free condoms from the NHS. When I floated the idea it brought a lot of laughter to the office, but it made sense. We had bags and bags of condoms in the SU and over a couple of weeks they would always go. Initially I looked at sending them out in batches of 10 to students in halls and over time we extended the service to off-campus students.
Do you remember what results came from the campaign?
We definitely got through a lot more condoms than before the campaign was launched and there were steady texts to the condom text hotline. In the end, we even received Facebook messages from students requesting packs. The impact of potentially improved sexual health and knowledge of sexual health was a more difficult aspect to monitor as it was multifaceted, but knowing that there was a demand for the service proved that the campaign promotion worked and that Jonnies for Johnny was a worthwhile endeavor that positively affected Worcester students.
What have you done since being a full-time officer at Worcester Students’ Union?
I went on to become a teacher and I am now Assistant Head in a primary school.
How did being an Officer help you in future life?
In so many ways, many of which I probably don't even realise, but this campaign experience in particular certainly makes it much easier when teaching sex and relationship education to Year 6 pupils!
Over 10 years on, Jade, the current SU President has revitalised the condom delivery service and hopes to expand the Safe Sex Express campaign further.
When talking about her own experience of the campaign, Jade said:
“I realised we provided this service during my first year as President and previously hadn’t been aware. I was quite a keen and proactive student, so I assumed most other students also would not have heard of it.
“It seemed clear to me that we should relaunch the service, give it new branding and let our students know about it”.
Commenting on the challenges of communicating on sexual wellbeing to students, Jade said:
“Speaking to students about the importance of safe sex isn’t an easy task and simply using posters to convey the message of using a condom might be easily missed or ignored. This is why I wanted a different approach! Something with a tongue-in-cheek feel to it that would make people stop, stare, and actually pay attention. This is when I came up with the idea of having a ‘Safe Sex Express’. The slogan being ‘We deliver, so you can too’, felt like a great way to advertise the fact we just want students to be safe and sensible when it comes to their experiences while at Worcester”.
Since the campaign has been rebranded and relaunched there has been an increase of over 300% in text hotline usage. On the success of the campaign, Jade added, “I see people taking pictures of the posters and sometimes even with the poster! It has been a really successful campaign and I look forward to seeing the success of it over the next year.
“I must thank Johnathon as I would never have been able to do this without his original campaign idea. It is great to see campaigns and services still in place that have been set up by previous Sabbatical Officers and I can only hope the same will happen to me in years to come”.