The scariest part of living in a world where the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection grows ever higher is the potential for a silent infection to destroy a future.
Numerous infections can go without symptoms for years. Without any impetus for testing, such as the expected drips and pains, the temptation is to assume that one avoided infection. This logic is part of the reason for the continued spread of infections.
Unfortunately, not all of these infections remain dormant forever, or will be dormant in other people exposed.
While the most recent Student Health Act allows students to continue to obtain free tests for all of the most common infections, this attempt to provide for the public health would be more effective if this were also an initiative of the school, rather than just the SA.
As Senator Ruzic pointed out in his bill, free or reduced price STI testing is available at many universities. At some, this is a service provided for by the college, at others, it is a service offered by state health departments and Planned Parenthood centers with local offices.
However, Williamsburg does not have the luxury of a local health department or Planned Parenthood.
The methods of colleges that directly provide STI testing services vary. UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Student Health Center offers completely free STI testing for students insured under the school. Other colleges offer reduced rates for STI testing regardless of participation in their offered insurance, George Mason offers students a battery of tests for 20 dollars. Other colleges will offer free testing for students on a certain day of the week or special events, such as World AIDS day.
Along with these programs, many of these schools offer readily available information on the risks and facts of sexually transmitted infections.
While the Student Health Center has brochures, which undoubtedly cover these points, just having this information hosted within the health center is not good enough. The College needs to make an effort to advertise the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and the necessity of STI testing.
Currently, the website for the Student Health Center’s only information on sexually transmitted infections is how much it costs to test for them. There is an irony in the College’s implementation programs to deal with catastrophes with infinitesimal likelihoods, while not preparing students at all for what to do if they are at risk of contracting an STI. This needs to change.
While the SA is able to cover for the College’s unwillingness or inability to offer direct programs for STI testing, the SA does not have the same capacity as the college for continued widespread dissemination of information. Besides, hosting information on symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea on the SA’s website would be at best out of place and at worst inappropriate contextually. The SA also has the ability to put on large-scale events, but these contradict the spirit of confidentiality needed to combat this issue.
Since College students are one of the most significantly at risk groups for contraction of an STI, better education on the issue is a must and the College, which provides education on such a variety of topics, needs to embrace this one as well.