Student group starts petition for free on-campus STD testing petition

Nashwa Bawab

A UT student organization recently started a petition calling for free access to sexually transmitted disease testing on campus for all students and faculty.

The UT American Medical Student Association (AMSA) launched the petition two weeks ago. The petition has about 200 signatures, but it needs around 7,000–10,000 before AMSA is ready to show it to health departments, according Lusaura Gutierrez, advocacy team leader of AMSA and government junior. 

AMSA plans to promote the petition more in the upcoming weeks to gain the needed signatures, Gutierrez said.

According to an executive summary from University Health Services published in fall 2013, 3.9 percent of UT students reported being diagnosed with an STD.

“One of the biggest contributing factors [to STDs spreading] is the fact that most young adults are not being tested and as a result are spreading infections to their partners,” Gutierrez said, “Our next step is to present this petition to UHS, the Austin Health Department and even our lawmakers to show them just how important this is to us.”

Free STD testing could mean more than just lessening the spreading of diseases, according to Elaine Almeida, advertising freshman and petition signer.

“I definitely think it’s a good idea,” Almeida said. “If they had it free on campus, I think that would make it easier for a lot of people. By having free STD testing, it lowers the stigma around getting tested. I think having it free on campus would really just change dialogue about STDs and safe sex.”

The cost of STD testing varies on many different factors, such as number of different tests, according to Susan Hochman, assistant director for health promotion and public information at UHS.

The UHS also provides different options to make costs less of a burden for students, Hochman said.

“We provide testing services; we provide the self-billing discount for students without insurance or who don’t want to bill their insurance, and students don’t have to pay at the time of service,” Hochman said. “We also provide community referrals to community resources where testing is free for students, so cost shouldn’t be a barrier because students can get free testing off campus if cost is a barrier on campus.”

UHS knows that getting tested can be a struggle for students, and the organization tries to keep its rates reasonable, Hochman said.

“We do what we can to encourage testing and make it affordable for students,” Hochman said.