Many of Georgetown University’s sexual health policies directly threaten the sexual health and safety of its students — STI screening protocol, disparities in levels of sexual education and past biases in pregnancy services referrals, to name a few. However, Georgetown has recently made advancements toward making better sexual health options available to students. Yet, these apparent wins have not been all that impactful.
Why? Because nobody knows about them.
The fall semester compelled Georgetown to confront several critical decisions regarding sexual health resources. When the Trump administration repealed the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate in October, Georgetown’s insurance plan could have discontinued insurance coverage of contraceptives on religious grounds.
This decision would not have been shocking: Georgetown only began to cover birth control on university insurance once the ACA required it to. However, due to student activism and national pressure, the university’s administration announced that it would continue to cover birth control on the university’s health insurance — a huge win for the students who rely on this insurance.
Chances are you did not hear about this announcement from the administration, as it was only announced as a short update to the FAQ section of the student health insurance website, a discreet move that few students would discover if they were not looking for it. University insurance coverage for birth control can mean the difference between having access to birth control or not for many students because of the cost of acquiring it externally. This information needs to be adequately broadcasted to the entire student body, but it has not yet been.
Other important sexual health care projects are not even on the radar of Georgetown students. For instance, student health administrators have failed to widely inform students about the coming availability of intrauterine device insertions at the Student Health Center, covered by the university’s health insurance.
Once again, this development would represent an enormous win for students. IUDs are one of the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy, are long-lasting and can mitigate serious health risks. But IUD insertion was supposed to begin this fall; students should be made aware that it is being delayed, so that they are able to make a fully informed choice on birth control alternatives. Something as simple as an email announcing the upcoming new birth control options, as well as an estimated timeline, would help this lack of awareness and allow students to decide which birth control method is best and most accessible to them.
The lack of information distribution from the Student Health Center carries other consequences. Last year, Georgetown institutionalized a one-day event offering free, confidential HIV screening once a semester; last fall, this screening event was expanded to include testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
While information about this screening was included in emails from the Center for Student Engagement, it was lost among announcements for various other health issues and club events. If information about flu vaccinations and measles gets its own universitywide email, information about sexual health resources should as well.
An STI screening event is certainly important enough to warrant its own email. College-aged students account for the majority of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, and the number of students with STIs is only growing. Georgetown is right to offer this free screening — though, in an ideal world, it would be offered more than once a semester. Yet, by not adequately publicizing the event to ensure students are aware of all the available sexual health resources, the university is mitigating the positive effects it could have on the student body.
If knowledge is power, then Georgetown students are being disempowered from taking charge of their sexual health. Georgetown still has a long way to go to provide ideal sexual health resources. The first step in this pursuit is ensuring that students are aware of already existing resources.
Simple steps like individual emails from the Student Health Center are a good way to start. With that change, students at Georgetown can continue to advocate for the sexual health resources that we both need and deserve from our university.
Talia Parker is a sophomore in the College. Let’s Talk About Sex(ual Health) appears online every other Thursday.