This semester, University Health Services (UHS) has partnered with the Monroe County Department of Public Health to offer free student testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
STIs are sexual infections that can spread from person to person through vaginal, oral, or anal sex or the use of shared sex toys, said UHS Director of Health Promotion Amy McDonald, and they can be prevented by using barrier protection — like condoms or dental dams — during sex.
The specifics of STI testing depend on what is being tested for, McDonald continued, and may include a urine test, cheek swab, blood test, physical exam, fluid samples, or a swab of a student’s penis, vagina, urethra, cervix, anus, or throat. The free testing clinics are offered every other Tuesday in the Green Room Suite in Douglass Commons.
“There are two separate and private rooms with no windows within the suite,” McDonald said. “When one of the staff members from the county is ready, they will come out to get the next person for testing. During the test, a urine sample is needed, so the student will need to step out at some point to take care of that. There is a private all-gender restroom in the Green Room Suite, or if the student is more comfortable they can go to the other bathrooms on that floor of Douglass.”
In the past, UHS has partnered with various community agencies to offer free testing. McDonald said that, in the wake of a lack of national testing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UHS “noticed a high demand for testing” upon students’ return to campus.
“I did some research about places in the community that offer testing, and found that the County Department of Health has a community clinic,” she said. “I reached out, and they were happy to offer testing for our campus. This partnership began in Fall 2021.”
McDonald said that STIs most commonly present as asymptomatic, which is why getting tested regularly is so important, especially for people with multiple sexual partners or a partner who has multiple sexual partners. For students who might be worried about discretion, McDonald had this to say:
“Part of the reason for this testing initiative starting was actually to offer students different options to be tested for STIs so that they do have somewhere that they feel accommodated, protected, and safe. We recognize that some students may be more comfortable going directly to UHS to be tested, which they are more than welcome to do at any time. But we also know that some students would prefer to see someone outside of UHS.”
If a test comes back positive, McDonald said the county will refer the student to UHS and give the student the option of going to their off-campus clinic for follow-up. She said that students can reach out to UHS by calling (585) 275-2662 and letting the scheduler know they have tested positive for an STI and would like to meet with a provider.
“From there, it would be treated as a regular medical concern, and follow up testing may be done as well as treatment,” she said. “In addition, the Health Promotion Office offers sexual health programming and education, as well as safer sex supplies to protect students from spreading or contracting STIs in the future. And lastly, this may be scary and stressful for the student, so the University Counseling Center is also available for support if or when the student needs it.”
If a student is not able to make one of the scheduled free clinics, McDonald said they can schedule an appointment directly with UHS. The mandatory health fee paid by all full-time students would cover the cost of the appointment and also covers one rapid HIV screening test per year.
“The cost of any other STI testing will usually be billed to the student’s health insurance,” said McDonald. “If a student is on the University’s health insurance, they should not incur any out-of-pocket cost for testing. If they are on their parent’s insurance, then they may incur a cost depending on the insurance plan.
“[…] Another option that the student would have for testing would be to go off campus to a clinic such as Trillium Health, Planned Parenthood, or the county health department. The cost at these places would vary, and the student would need to call ahead to confirm if there is a cost.”
McDonald said UHS plans for the free testing to continue into the spring semester, but that they do not have a schedule or confirmation from the county yet. The next testing sessions will be held on Nov. 7 — the only Monday date — and Nov. 22.