The most pervasive threats to our well-being are usually those brought on by ourselves. There’s no public safety for infections, and no disciplinary action for unprotected sex, so the responsibility of keeping our campus healthy unfortunately falls largely on us. STIs can cause annoyance for most, but devastation for others, especially in our city where STIs like HIV remain at epidemic levels. We should be able to feel safe with our partners, our hook-ups, even our one night stands. STI testing is the only true safeguard yet barely anyone uses it as a preventative measure. Instead, students are only driven to get testing when symptoms show, and by then there’s a high chance they’ve already passed it along. To further explore this issue I contacted Dr. David Reitman, the Medical Director for the Student Health Center, who was generous enough to give me an interview. With what I learned I hope to provide some guidance and clear up some misconceptions to help this campus become safer, one STI test at a time.
On-campus testing is generally cheaper than anywhere else.
For most tests the samples need to be shipped to LabCorp for the highest accuracy possible, but the costs of these tests sent are negotiated in our favor. The Health Center drives the price down for students as low as possible every time. For example, a $20 HIV screening has a retail price tag of $168. Moreover, that HIV test costs the school $40 even after negotiation, but AU isn’t looking to make a profit. Another example is chlamydia/gonorrhea testing which is $50 here, but $190 at an off-campus doctor’s office. Additionally, you can expect the tests and examinations to be performed by professional medical practitioners. In comparison, if you go to popular testing centers in D.C, such as the Whitman Walker Clinic, your attendant will likely be a simple volunteer, and you’ll often pay a higher price.
Regardless of price, most testing ends up being covered by insurance.
With all that said about costs, almost no one pays out of pocket because most insurance covers all the costs. A main reservation against usage is the fear of “STI Testing” appearing on parents’ medical bills, but that’s not something to worry about. Almost all major insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare offer anonymity, all you need to do is call the customer service number on your insurance card and ask them to reassign your “Explanation of Benefits” to your campus address. Overall, AU aims to provide cheap testing using one’s insurance makes any range of STI testing as inexpensive as possible while keeping your information secret. And if “inexpensive as possible” isn’t cheap enough for you, the Health Center offers free HIV testing every semester as part of their own promotional programs and alongside on-campus organizations.
Yes, STIs are an issue on our campus, and no, not enough of us get tested.
Fun fact: about 1 in 20 AU students have chlamydia/gonorrhea. Want another? In any given semester the Health Center administers around 500 STI tests… we have an undergraduate population of over 7,700. Clearly our sample size is small, and considering that chlamydia/gonorrhea shows symptoms in only 60% of men and 15% of women infected, we really don’t know the exact number, but we know infections are out there, and the same survey problems exist for every STI. Look around your lecture hall, the dorm floor you live on, the frat party you’re attending, the club where you’re blacking out — it’s not a question of if someone around you has an STI, it’s a question of if they know they’re infected, and if they don’t know, you definitely won’t, and you could easily become the next carrier.
The only obstacle is us, so do your duty and get tested.
The Student Health Center offers us everything we need to combat STIs: reduced prices, sufficient and confidential insurance, education, free condoms, and active promotion. What’s left is our own initiative. It’s time to rally for awareness and prevention. The Health Center is always looking for groups to work with for that purpose, so if you’re part of a club or a fellow Greek look into organizing something, both for the safety of your members and the campus at large, this could be your opportunity. Regardless, this all starts at the individual level so don’t wait for others; just get tested on your own. Sure, we can only ever hope to not fall victim, but we can absolutely ensure we aren’t the perpetrator, so ask yourself: do you really want to be that asshole?
If you want to find out more about STIs and on-campus resources contact
Dr. David Reitman, the Medical Director for the Student Health Center.
He’s glad to receive any call, and answer any question.