Health center offers STD testing
From Monday, May 5 to Thursday, May 8, students were given the opportunity to get free, confidential testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. This marked the Health Center’s fourth year of participation in the national campaign, Get Yourself Tested, or GYT, and similar programs which advocate safe sex education.
“The Health Center does STD testing all year-round, but it’s not for free. People can use their insurance if they want to, or they can pay for it out of pocket. But the reason I wanted to offer free testing is, not everyone has insurance…so it puts a lot of students in the position of having to lie to their parents and they don’t want to do that.” Health Educator Lenore Meyers said, citing confidentiality and lack of coverage as reasons why students might not take advantage of the Health Center’s usual testing resources.
This year’s free testing was funded by the Center for Student Diversity and the Healthy Campus Task Force, something that Meyers said she was thankful for, though other resources like staff and space limited the extent of the event.
Of the STDs themselves, Meyers stressed that for those that do take advantage of testing opportunities and are diagnosed, treatment is an affordable possibility.
“Chlamydia is the second most common STD in the United States. The first one is HPV which there’s not really a test for, but this one not only is testable, it’s easy to test for it, but there’s a cure for it,” Meyers said.
Meyers said that testing is especially important for college-aged young women, for whom chlamydia is most common.
“Who’s getting chlamydia in the United States? If you look it up, it’s females between the ages of 15 and 25,” Meyers said.
Though the infection is typically associated with females, males may also be affected by these or other STDs.
“Men can suffer health side effects as well, but particularly women can end up being infertile or sterile from chlamydia and gonorrhea. But we just see much less gonorrhea,” she said. “And most women, like 80 percent of women, have no symptoms. The national recommendations now, the CDC [Center for Disease Control] recommendations, are that every female who, basically, is having sexual intercourse of any kind who’s under 25 should be tested annually for Chlamydia.”
Health Center intern Sarah Hogge worked with Meyers to organize and carry out the free testing.
“This is something that’s important to me because of the age range. These women who have been affected by it are my peers and doing this experience allows me to sit one-on-one with them and answer any questions that they have, and that really opens up the table for that discussion about sexual health, which a lot of people are very uncomfortable having those discussions,” Hogge said of her experience with the STD testing opportunities.
A family and human services major, Hogge, who is bound by the same strict codes of confidentiality as the rest of the Health Center’s employees, also said that the GYT free testing campaign is important because it motivates greater care and caution in students.
“It gets them thinking about their sexual health and a lot of them inquire, well, ‘What other STD testing [does the Health Center] have available?’ And all kinds of questions like that, so I think it’s really good because they don’t always have that opportunity in the classroom or anyone to ask those kinds of questions because it’s still kind of taboo in our culture to talk about it,” she said.
Hogge also encouraged students to ask about the Health Center’s other services and said that, though this taboo on sexual education exists, education and personal care greatly benefit those who may be afflicted with an STD such as chlamydia.
“I find that a lot of people are uncomfortable with it but when you’re one on one and you’re talking with them and they feel comfortable, they really are interested in the topic, they want to talk about it, they want to ask questions and ultimately they care about their sexual health,” she said.