Free flu shots and sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing will be part of the Fall Health Festival organized by Student Health Services (SHS). The services will be available at the SHS Annex on Wednesday.
Susanna Perez-Field, the communications and marketing director for SHS, said it is essential to utilize these services, especially since they are covered by tuition.
“The main focus of the Fall Health Festival is flu shots, because it is the time where you can get your flu shot, get your flu shot early, so that you have time to be fully vaccinated before cold and flu season hits our campus,” Perez-Field said. “They are fully covered by tuition. In addition, although it is a smaller portion of our festival, we’ll be doing testing for STI’s. We’ll be testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV. That is actually a $200 value.”
The festival takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and SHS is providing free snacks and drinks as well as handing out goodies bags.
According to Perez-Field, there are separate lines for flu shots and STI testing. Perez-Field said students want to make sure they get plenty of rest and eat and drink before getting in either line. She also said to allow plenty of time, as this is a popular event and STI testing can take time.
“For anyone that participates in either line, we’ll have Jamba Juice, Jimmy Johns, KIND Bars and fresh fruit,” Perez-Field said. “The first 400 students will get a wellness pack to kind of help them through cold and flu season.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2016 there were more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the U.S. About 1.6 million of these cases were chlamydia, which can cause lifelong damage to women when gone undetected and untreated. Young women of ages 15 to 24 account for about half of these reported cases of chlamydia.
“We have had a rise in syphilis, a rise in chlamydia and a rise in HIV,” Perez-Field said. “There’s no way to know if you have it, because those symptoms could be dormant for a long time. So, we really recommend that students get tested twice a year.
“If you really think about it, doctors recommend that you get an annual check-up, dentists recommend that you have exams and cleanings twice a year, so why would it be so weird to think that you need a sexual check-up twice a year.”
Even though this event is popular among students, SHS assures them that everything is handled in a confidential manner and students control what tests are conducted.
“When we do STI testing, the student is in control,” Perez-Field said. “Yes, the staff member from the health department will talk to you about what you want and what you don’t want. There are different tests: urine, blood, and throat swab. You ultimately are the decider of which ones you want to do and which ones you don’t want to do. Don’t be afraid. Everything is confidential.”
Some students share the sentiment that services like these are important to provide in college because they are greatly needed.
Brittany Williams, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, said SHS has always been a reliable and convenient place for students to receive sensitive tests like the ones offered at the festival.
“First and foremost, (the festival) provides a comfortable environment where students can go to get tested,” Williams said. “The student health clinic has proven to be a nonjudgmental source that is always willing to help. Our health clinic always urges us to regularly test for STIs, pregnancy, etc., to keep track of our overall health. Another important benefit of offering these health services on campus is for the convenience of not having to go off campus for our medical needs.”
Mark Tush, a senior majoring in computer science, also said he thinks these services are important for students to have access to.
“I feel like for a number people college is when sexual activity either begins or increases so free STI testing would be essential,” Tush said. “I’ll also say prevention is better than treatment when it comes to the flu.”
Perez-Field said she wanted to emphasize that students should take their health into their own hands and not fear getting tested or receiving a flu shot.
“There’s no shame in it,” Perez-Field said. “You’re doing what’s important for you to take care of yourself and to take care of the people you care about.”