On September 16th, unaffiliated, anti-choice protestors came to campus, harassing students and distributing medically inaccurate pamphlets, yet Georgetown administrators did not respond in any way. The following week, GUPD tore down condom envelopes, violating students’ free speech rights. These incidents, while upsetting, did not come as a surprise to H*yas for Choice (HFC). The university’s disregard for the rights of HFC is simply the continuation of a trend that neglects the sexual health of Georgetown students under the guise of Jesuit identity.
As co-president of HFC, I have a responsibility to supply free condoms and I feel a larger duty to ensure students have the tools to maintain their sexual health. Unfortunately, there are services HFC cannot provide. Among the services HFC cannot provide is free, comprehensive screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Georgetown University does not provide free, comprehensive STI testing to students, a fact we believe students should find disheartening and disturbing.
According to the CDC, nearly half of the 20 million new STIs diagnosed each year are among young people between the ages of 15–24. Although the CDC’s recommendations for testing vary per specific STI, most sexually active individuals should be screened at least once a year. Now, you may assume that STI testing is covered under your health insurance, and you would be correct. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover preventative services, including STI testing. Although the Student Health Center (SHC) does provide STI testing, many students are still on their parents’ health insurance, and may not feel comfortable using their insurance to get tested. Often, parents see the health insurance bills and question why their child needed STI testing, which may make students uncomfortable and serve as a sufficient deterrent to accessing STI testing, even when free of cost under their insurance.
There has not been an opportunity for students to access free, anonymous STI testing for over a year. The last time free STI testing was available on Georgetown’s campus was Spring of 2014, when a mobile HIV testing clinic parked outside of Poulton Hall and offered free HIV tests to students. To find an instance of free testing for STIs, other than HIV, however, you must to go back even further in Georgetown history.
Georgetown’s opposition to offering free STI testing is unusual, given both secular and religiously affiliated universities provide free STI testing to students. At Villanova University, a Catholic institution, an outside agency comes to their Student Health Center to conduct free and anonymous HIV testing for students twice each semester. There is no reason Georgetown University cannot offer free STI testing once a semester to its students. It is both negligent and a public health risk that Georgetown does not already provide this service.
As a Jesuit university that emphasizes cura personalis, Georgetown also has a moral obligation to provide STI testing to students. Cura personalis represents a commitment to respect and care for an individual’s circumstances and choices, and should extend to sexual choices. The university exemplifies cura personalis through other health services, including free pregnancy tests, free disposable cups, and free flu shots. Free STI testing would not be unprecedented and would only add to the spectrum of services that serve to protect student health.
As an organization, HFC does not have the physical or financial resources to undertake a campus-wide STI testing campaign. It should not be the job of a student-run organization to undertake and finance a universal good for the university community. The SHC has the materials, and Georgetown University has the funds. We, as HFC, ask for one “Get Yourself Tested Day” a semester to provide basic health care to students and fulfill the promise of cura personalis.
Brinna Ludwig is a senior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. She is the co-President of H*yas for Choice.