GU’s STI: Sexually Transmitted Ignorance

March 30, 2006

Last Friday, March 24, a mobile HIV testing unit came to Georgetown, giving Georgetown students the chance to get free HIV testing on campus. The event, sponsored by the Georgetown University AIDS coalition, was a good opportunity for students, but it serves as a reminder that STI testing should be offered all the time at no cost.

Georgetown is a Catholic university that does not approve of the use of contraception. Campus stores are not permitted to sell any form of contraception, including condoms. As long as the University maintains a policy that discourages the use of condoms, it must provide students with adequate tools to monitor their sexual health.

The Student Health Center offers STI screenings, but at a high cost. Students trying to pay out-of-pocket usually cannot afford to do so. “Students who choose to pay on their own … might have to pay several hundred dollars, depending on how many tests were done,” Dr. James Marsh, director of the Student Health Center, said.

The screenings are covered by most insurance plans, but according to Dr. Marsh, “there is the real possibility that names of specific tests could show up on the Explanation of Benefits letter the insurance company sends to the policy holder.” For most students, according to Marsh, the policyholders are their parents. Students have a right to privacy with regard to STI testing.

Many universities, including Columbia and Temple, do offer free STI/HIV screenings; or they offer it for a nominal fee. Wesleyan, for example, charges less than $30 for each individual test.

The fact that students cannot afford to be tested or do not want their parents to know discourages them from getting the STI testing that they need. While students can find clinics off-campus that offer free screenings, most do not have to time to do so or do not know where to go.

The fact that Georgetown does not offer free STI screenings compromises the overall sexual health of the campus and sends the message that Georgetown is not concerned with its students’ health. The University can quickly rectify this problem by offering free testing to students.

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