Barrie pharmacy to host sexual health information sessions

Lawyers for Ontario's elementary teachers' union say the government's repeal of a modernized sex-ed curriculum has left educators reluctant to address issues like gender identity, which are no longer a mandatory part of the lesson plan. Getty Images

A pharmacy in Barrie will be holding free monthly information sessions on sexual health and sexual safety beginning next week.

Express Aid Pharmacy, which has locations on Grove Street and Leacock Drive in Barrie, will host the sessions once a month to provide youth and their parents with information pertaining to sexual health which is not being taught in schools.

According to Andrew Schonbe, pharmacist and owner of Express Aid Pharmacy, the decision to start the information sessions was all about timing.

Schonbe said he found reports which suggested there was an increase in sexually transmitted infections in Simcoe County and at the same time, conversation was circulating about consent and the #MeToo movement. All of this, he says, coincided with the changes to the sexual education curriculum in schools.

“The sexual health curriculum was reverting backwards, and all of that was happening at the same time when youth need information more than ever. It was being taken away,” he said.

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Schonbe says ultimately the information sessions are about filling the gaps created by the outdated curriculum being taught in schools today.

“This was never meant to be overly political or partisan. To do this was more just to fill a gap,” he said. “It’s about providing tools, education and resources to parents and youth to help protect themselves in a modern age relating to sexual health.”

Some of those modern issues, Schonbe says, include cell phones, sexting, online predators, human trafficking and access to information and misinformation online.

“These are very real situations now,” he said. “So it’s about how can we protect them and how can we kind of help mitigate any dangers from that situation.”

The information sessions will cover a wide variety of topics, including consent, online safety, social media, sexual health and LGBTQ issues, such as coming out and navigating transition.

According to Schonbe, the material discussed at the information sessions will be geared towards parents and their teen and tween-aged children, however, there will be resources available for younger children online and at the pharmacy for parents to access.

“The whole discussion was about choice. Parents wanted a choice surrounding access. We’re providing resources. They can choose to come and access them if they want,” he said. “No one is forcing them to, but it’s there if they want it.”

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And, according to Schonbe, the information sessions are just one part of the larger #JustAsk campaign developed to provide young people in the community with a safe space to ask questions and discuss issues pertaining to sexual health.

“We’re encouraging a dialogue,” Schonbe said. “And the way they can do that is by using the hashtag #JustAsk to ask us questions on social media, or in store.”

Schonbe says his staff have done extensive research to ensure they are informed and have the most up-to-date information to present at the sessions.

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Additionally, he says they have called upon local health and law enforcement officials, who will be sharing their expertise on certain issues.

The first session is scheduled for Sept. 24 and features a Barrie police officer who will be speaking about online safety.

More information about the free sessions and the #JustAsk campaign can be found on the Express Aid Pharmacy website.

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