Hudson Health Center, amongst other organizations such as Planned Parenthood, lost state funding which allowed it to offer free STI testing.
The funding was provided under the National Infertility Prevention Project. POWER/GAMMA, a university health and wellness organization, is still able to offer free STI testing, but at limited times due to lack of resources.
Serena Verweire, a graduate assistant for peer health education programs, has been working with Student Senate to collect data about if students were using testing services and if they would use them again.
“We've been talking with Students Senate about allocating potential money to just provide testing our testing dates,” Verweire said. “We try to do free testings twice a year, and we realized through (Senate Appropriations Committee) funding . . . we can probably get it funded, but we want this to be backed up by ... something that's consistent.”
Verweire said because this is a state issue, legislation could still possibly change at some point. In the meantime, they still want to offer a service.
“Obviously long term it would be ideal, if it was every day, however funding is funding,” Verweire said.
She also said it typically costs $180 per person to get tested. Hudson, however, gets a discounted rate through the state.
“Right now where it is, it gets run through (students’) insurance and technically every student is supposed to have insurance,” Verweire said. “I would say long term (the effect of not offering free testing) would be like prevention.”
In 2019, 2,238 students were tested and out of those students, 303 tested positive for chlamydia and 14 tested positive for gonorrhea, Verweire said. According to that data, about 14% of students who were tested were positive for either one of those STIs.
“I think if legislators decided to prioritize sexual health and wellbeing, that would be ideal, especially on college campuses because we do know like, students are having sex, it would be dumb of us not to acknowledge that,” Verweire said. “I think also like college students are a huge population of people and we live in a petri dish.”
Student Senate has been doing work with Hudson Health to collect data on the amount of students that have used STI testing in the past.
“We kind of want to figure out how much money we lost when the grant was taken away and figuring out if we can request funding somehow,” Nina Fraoli, vice commissioner of academic affairs, said. “It's really like, beginning stages of trying to figure out what we can do because we weren't sure if we were actually going to be able to allocate a certain funds from senate. I think we're going to tackle it. I don't know. There's a couple different ways we could so things are still in the process.”
Fraoli said she knew something needed to be done, but didn’t quite know how to go about it before the help of POWER/GAMMA.
“I had a meeting with the Survivor Advocacy Program this semester,” she said. “I just kind of wanted to see what there is a need for and so I actually had called personally to get myself tested. That's how I found out because I called and they said, ‘We don't offer it anymore.’ And I kind of realized, okay, this is a problem. And then after talking to the survivor advocacy program, I realized this is also a big issue for survivors.”
The funding included free testing supplies from the state, Fraoli said. The amount of students who used the services increased from 2018 to 2019.
Senate is also working to compile a list of other resources that offer testing for free or at a low cost. However, some are not within walking distance for students without transportation or are at a higher cost.
“There is free HIV of both Hudson and the pregnancy Resource Center though,” Fraoli said. “So that is something positive to note.”
Testing is still offered through OhioHealth Campus Care at Ohio University, according to an OhioHealth spokesperson. However if left untreated, STIs can cause infertility and permanent damage to reproductive systems.
“At one point Campus Care was able to offer free STD testing to students that met certain criteria through a grant from Ohio Department of Health,” an OhioHealth spokesperson said in an email. “Because the Ohio Department of Health no longer offers that grant funding, Campus Care is no longer able to provide free STD testing.”