Bryce Randall, Contributing Writer
The latest study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made it abundantly clear that STIs are on the rise in the United States, and college-aged students are the most at risk of contracting them. I am a firm believer that our university should make an effort to assist in STI prevention without charging for the service.
As functioning young adults and VCU students, it is our responsibility to take accountability for ourselves and our well-being. It is important that we know the status of our sexual health to ensure both our own and our partner’s welfare. As such, anyone who is sexually active should make regular appointments for STI screenings. But we should not have to pay an extra $35 for a full-package STI screening test on top of the student health fee we are already paying in our cost of attendance.
Many of us are operating on a budget. I work part-time, and the little bit of coin I can scrape up is supposed to be going toward groceries and other necessities. $35 is too large of a chunk out of my paycheck for me to be spending it on an STI screening test, especially if I want to keep up with my health proactively by getting regular testing.
If you want to take yourself down to a free clinic, you’re more than welcome to — but you won’t be seeing me there. More often than not, the wait time in these free clinics is extremely long. Additionally, as a full-time student who happens to have a job, going off-campus to a free clinic is difficult to work into my schedule, and I am sure the same can be said for other students. It’s also just not something I should be obligated to do when I pay a health fee to this university.
Fellow VCU students, we shouldn’t have to fumble around with our schedules trying to figure out when we have time to wait two hours in the lobby of a free clinic. Every semester, full-time students are automatically billed a $112 health fee, regardless of how many trips they will need to take to VCU Student Health Services. If you feel sick every day and need constant check-ups, you pay $112. If you’re like me and have never been ill enough to need to drag yourself into Health Services, you’re still paying $112. I am at the beginning of the second semester of my sophomore year at VCU, and I have made a grand total of one trip to Student Health Services since I started at VCU — and that was for an STI screening that I still had to pay for despite the hundreds of dollars I had paid for a health fee that has never benefited me.
Free clinics and health centers around the Richmond area have managed to supply free STI testing, and it is unacceptable that a college that generates as much money as VCU — and whose president is the highest-paid state employee — is charging extra money for screenings needed by sexually active students to take care of their health.
As demonstrated by other colleges, a free STI screening program is possible. The University of Richmond’s Student Health Center offers its students free STI testing every other Thursday from 6-8 p.m.
Admittedly, VCU has been known to infrequently host free HIV testing on campus. Although the effort was made, this is still not enough. HIV is indeed one of the more potentially life-threatening STIs, however, it is also one of the least common. In 2018, only 37,832 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and six dependent areas while 1,758,668 chlamydia infections were reported to CDC in 50 states and the District of Columbia. While these free HIV testing sessions are still useful — as it is very important that students know their HIV status — it might be more useful if these events were hosted more frequently and tested for other STIs that are still rampant in the United States.
I am not asking for free medication or treatment for the STIs students might be infected with — I am simply stating that if VCU students are paying $112 per semester for health services most don’t even fully utilize, the least VCU could do is cover STI screenings as part of the required health fee.