College students, many times before they engage in sexual behavior, are not given access to education for sexual and reproductive health.
The majority of states have no laws that demand proper medical sex education course be taught such as Kentucky. There, students are taught sex education by an unqualified teacher who shows slideshows of genital herpes to scare students into not having sex.
This ineffective form of sex education impacts all students well into adulthood.
College students who did not get the proper sex education in high school are seeking it now. They are learning when to have sex when they shouldn’t have it, when to get consent from their partner and asking about STDs and testing. They are finding out that it’s okay to ask questions and to be open about boundaries and fantasies.
Zerfoss Student Health Center is one of the best services for the campus of Vanderbilt University Medical Center that encourages open conversations about sexual health. Even though it offers routine STD testing, it’s something most Vanderbilt students dismiss.
Students who visit the student health center use the computers to check in. A nurse calls them back to a private room where their blood pressure and weight are taken. They’ll also be asked about what brought them to the health center. After several minutes, another nurse will come to talk to the student.
For students who have never been tested, the nurse will ask a series of questions that may spark some level of un-comfortability. Some questions students will be asked include how many partners they have had since becoming sexually active, if their partners are male or female, how many partners they’ve had in the last six months.
The health center’s staff is there to offer support to patients, not shame or embarrass them. It’s important for college students to be upfront their health center staff.
Once the staff has taken the sexual history, students are then asked to visit the lab to get tested. The first set of tests are for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Ladies will go to a bathroom with a vial of liquid and long cotton swab, which they insert into their vagina for a sample. It is then placed in the vial and placed in a basket. Men will need to provide a urine sample for these tests.
For people who choose HIV and syphilis testing, blood work is ordered, and a lab technician will withdraw some blood.
The results come back after several days. For Vanderbilt student, they’ll receive an email with a link to their MyHealth account. Here, they can find out their test results and instructions on what to do next if they tested positive for something.
Campus Health Centers are an important part of college life with highly respectful staff that make students’ health their key priority. It’s important that students feel comfortable and are honest with staff at all times. STD tests are never sent to family members, and nothing goes on their insurance without prior approval.
Vanderbilt students with the Gallagher student insurance can get tested for syphilis, HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia for free. If paying out of pocket, the tests are $5 apiece. Students are advised to be tested every six months to ensure they are free of these common STDs.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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