Health Center offers discreet STI tests
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 17:09
With rising costs of tuition and expenses, health tends to take a backseat. However thanks to UCF Health Services partnering with the Orange County Health Department, students, as well as their partners, are being offered free STD screenings. The screening tests for the two most common STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) among college students — chlamydia and gonorrhea.
According to UCF Health Services, young adults between the ages of 15-24 are most at risk for contracting chlamydia (74 percent) and gonorrhea (60 percent), and three out of four people that have contracted one of these STDs show absolutely no symptoms even though they’re infected. It is recommended that sexually active students under the age of 25 get tested at least once a year.
Karen Yerkes, a nurse practitioner at UCF Health Services, said between June 2012 and May 2013, 681 were screened as positive, averaging 5 percent and spiking to 11.6 percent after spring break.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida, within the 15-24 age group, has a 9-11 percent positive rate.
While UCF ranks lower than that average, Yerkes believes that is only because they don’t screen as many students as the Florida average. She said Health Services needs to continue offering free screening to all students to get a more accurate, realistic number.
The screening, which is held in the Health Center on campus, is extremely private and confidential. Students are not asked many personal questions as one may think. The only information needed is how to contact with the results.
Megan Pabian, UCF Health Services marketing coordinator, said stressing privacy is key for students to get tested.
“It is really important thing to communicate to students because a lot of times they won’t get tested because they think they are going to be asked ‘Are you gay?’ or ‘How many people have you slept with?’” Pabian said. “Students learn about different resources at UCF and in the community that are available.”
Since the tests are provided by the Orange County Health Department, a student’s results are not put on their UCF medical record, unless they choose to be treated at the Health Center on campus.
The test is performed by taking a urine sample, which is then run throughout the state lab. Students can typically expect results within three weeks. The results will be called to the number provided by the students. OCHD will then contact the student and offer them free treatment at their health center in Downtown Orlando. Students can also choose to be treated at UCF, however that service is not free.
These STDs are easily treated if caught early.
It is important that students take advantage of the free medical services that are provided. Pabian said roughly 25 percent of students have no health insurance.
Even though the screening is just for chlamydia and gonorrhea, Pabian said the Health Center stresses the importance of getting tested for other STDs.
“We also recommend that everyone gets an HIV test,” Pabian said. “Another one that is highly recommended for students is to get screened for syphilis for students that have engaged in high-risk sexual activity.”
While the test for syphilis is not free, it is offered by UCF Health Services for $17. The Recreation and Wellness Center on campus offers free HIV testing through an oral swab.
Sixty to 73 percent of patients diagnosed with one of the STIs will become re-infected within the same year. This is why students who decide to get tested are recommended to bring their partners, which is free even if they do not attend UCF.
“We really encourage students to bring their partners,” Pabian said. “If you are in a relationship, make it something you do together, bring your partner with you.”
The screening event is being held on Sept. 19 at the UCF Health Center. If a student cannot attend the upcoming screening event, the free service is offered about every month, however if a student is seeing symptoms, Health Services recommends getting tested immediately.
Christian Pilato, a sophomore biology major, thinks it is important for students to be smart while engaging in sexual activity, especially with different partners.
“Students have to realize that these diseases are real, and no one is immune,” Pilato said. “It can be scary, but not knowing could be even scarier.”