The Georgetown University community is quite vigilant about staying fit and healthy. Walking between classes, it is not unusual to see people in gym clothes or overhear discussions about the ways they try to eat healthily. Although cura personalis, or care of the whole person, extends to these physical aspects of the Hoya lifestyle, there is one crucial aspect of health that seems to be left out of the conversation: sexual health.
Just like getting regular check-ups at the doctor’s, it is important to get regular sexually transmitted infection screenings, especially after any change in sexual activity. Several resources at Georgetown, like the Student Health Center, Health Education Services and H*yas for Choice, help ensure that STI testing is easily accessible.
The Truth Behind STIs
STIs can be spread through contact with infected body fluids, including semen, vaginal fluids and blood. STIs can also be transmitted through contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, including sores in the mouth.
STIs are not always visible, and many do not have symptoms. Further, STI symptoms can appear months or even years after the infection is first contracted through sexual activity. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure whether you have an STI. The best method to help prevent the spread of STIs is to use a condom.
It is also a misconception that engaging in oral and anal sex does not pose a risk for the transmission of STIs. Many STIs can be transmitted through oral sex, including herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and syphilis. During anal sex, these risks are even higher; small tears in the skin makes it easy for STIs to pass from one person to another.
But the biggest myth of all is that only people with many sexual partners get STIs. The truth is, anyone can get an STI, even people with just one partner if that partner has an STI. It is imperative to get tested if you have been or are sexually active.
The Student Health Center provides a full array of testing and treatment options for STIs. The cost of a screening depends on your healthcare plan. Every Georgetown student is required to have health insurance, which can help partially cover these tests. With the United Student Health Care Premier Plan, there is a $10 copay, but a quick call to your specific insurer will tell you what cost to expect.
The Student Health Center recommends the Whitman Walker Clinic, on 14th St NW, or Planned Parenthood, on 4th St SE, as lower cost options for those who do not have insurance.
The Student Health Center will be hosting a free STI testing event on campus Nov. 14.
What To Expect
You can make an appointment at the Health Center to get tested or to talk with a health professional about whether or not getting screened makes sense for you. The infections that are typically screened for are syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. The test itself usually involves only blood and urine analysis, but sometimes more extensive testing is recommended after discussion with a physician.
One of the most common reasons students are unwilling to get tested is out of fear of social and familial repercussions. Although conversations between patients and physicians are strictly confidential, insurance companies itemize their bills differently and an “explanation of benefits” letter sent to the insurance holder may detail the tests performed. If you are insured under the student health care plan, the bills and statements will come directly to you and not your parents, unless your home address is indicated. If you are concerned about your family finding out about testing, you can call your insurer and ask about their policy.
For more information about H*yas for Choice and student health services, visit hyasforchoice.com.