The University of Connecticut Women’s Center, in collaboration with Student Health Services, will be offering free sexually transmitted disease testing today from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Women’s Center. This is only the second time such a service has been offered for free at the Women’s Center.
“This is a collaboration with Student Health Services, so any plans to continue to offer this would have to be vetted through them,” Kathleen Holgerson, the director of the Women’s Center, said.
Student Health Services staff member Patricia Moriarty commented on what students who go to the event can expect in terms of testing.
“Testing includes a urine test for both gonorrhea and chlamydia. In order to be most accurate, the student should not have urinated for at least an hour prior to providing a urine sample,” Moriarty said. “There’s a blood test for both Hepatitis C and Syphilis, and a mouth swab to obtain a saliva sample for HIV testing. Students should not be chewing gum or eating prior to obtaining the specimen.”
The United States Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has estimated that 20 million people are newly infected with an STD each year. Of that number, roughly half are believed to be young men and women between the ages of 15 and 24.
“CDC’s new estimates show that there are about 20 million new infections in the United States each year, costing the American healthcare system nearly $15 billion in director medical costs alone,” according to a report published by the CDC in 2013. “America’s youth shoulder a substantial burden of these infections. CDC estimates half of all new STIs in the country occur among young men and women.”
The importance of testing for STDs is repeated throughout the report, and is the first bullet point in the conclusion regarding the number of cases and the costs to the U.S. healthcare system.
“All adults and adolescents should be tested at least one for HIV…Yearly gonorrhea screening for at-risk sexually active women (e.g., those with new or multiple sex partners, and women who live in communities with a high burden of disease,” according to the report.
The director of the division of STD prevention at the CDC, Gail Bolan, has also spoken on the importance of testing, particularly for young women, who often face worse consequences than young men.
“The annual number of new sexually transmitted infections is roughly equal among young women and young men. However, the consequences of untreated STDs are often worse for young women, who disproportionately bear the long-term consequences of untreated STDs,” Bolan wrote in an article for the National Safety Council.
UConn Student Health Services offers testing for several kinds of STD testing throughout the year, but does not offer them for free, as students must pay for the test at the time of the appointment.
“Whether you are currently having symptoms that you think may be caused by an STD, or you want STD and/or HIV testing for other reasons, you can make an appointment in person at Student Health Services,” according to the Student Health Services Website. “You may pay by cash, check or credit card at the time of your appointment.”
The CDC also offers advice that may be applicable to UConn students considering going to the free testing: openness with your doctor is key.
“STD testing and treatment can help reduce the spread of STDs. It is important to have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDS,” according to the CDC website. “Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly.”