Student Government proposes recommendation for free STI testing

Rachel Ann Lew

Student Government proposed Assembly Resolution 19 recommending University Health Services to provide one day a semester of free testing for sexually transmitted infections, with the possibility of transitioning into an appointment based model after two years.

According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment survey at UT, 67.7 percent of students reported having at least one sexual partner within the last 12 months, and compared with older adults, sexually active college-age students are at a higher risk of acquiring STIs due to behavioral, biological and social reasons.

John Falke, author of A.R. 19 and business honors senior, said he hopes the resolution will increase the number of students who get tested for STIs.

“There are so many students here who don’t feel comfortable getting STI tested or who can’t afford it,” Falke said. “I really hope this resolution and the outcome from it takes away some of the stigma in getting STI tested as well as making it more accessible.”

Susan Hochman, UHS Assistant Director for Health Promotion and Public Information, said UHS has submitted a proposal to Student Services Budget Committee to fund the resolution.

“UHS is very open to listening to students needs and concerns,” Hochman said. “In order to provide this service, we need funding, and the feasibility of free STI testing depends on whether we receive that funding.” 

UHS currently charges a $10 appointment fee as well as a separate fee for each test. Students without health insurance are able to pay a lowered “self-pay” amount that is reduced from the full price. The self-pay costs for the chlamydia and gonorrhea lab test, HIV blood test and syphilis lab test are $58, $20 and $4, respectively.

Hochman, said cost is one of several barriers to students getting tested.

“For some, cost can be a barrier, but that is not the primary reason,” Hochman said. “Some students don’t believe that there are risks, and there is a lack of perceived susceptibility. There is a lack of education about STIs and how they are spread, and there may be an element of fear as well.”

Falke said Student Government and UHS are working together to estimate the cost of implementing free STI testing on campus, but calculating an exact cost is difficult because this resolution would be the first run of the program.

Government freshman Joshua Ellis, who attended the meeting, said he feels free STI testing on campus is a necessity in today’s college climate.

“I find it surprising that this is a program that isn’t already in place,” Ellis said. “Knowing that so many people on campus are sexually active, STI testing is very important, and a lot of college students are fiscally unable to pay for a doctor’s appointment. Allowing this resolution would allow for privacy from parents’ knowledge of STI testing and an overall safer climate here on campus.”

Falke said the resolution is still in progress but hopes to see the resolution implemented by spring 2017.