Free STI testing at Health Office (and why you should go)

This is a test that you shouldn’t dread taking.

The University of Connecticut Health Education Office is hosting a free STI testing event on Tuesday Nov. 29th, from 5-6 p.m. in Wilson Hall.

Captain Condom wants you to practice safe sex and STI tested. (Marlese Lessing/The Daily Campus)

The tests are for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis and Hepatitis C, said Health Education Coordinator Joleen Nevers, and spots are limited to the first 25 students.

“Most STIs don’t have symptoms, so getting checked for STIs can assist students with knowing their status to take care of themselves by seeking treatment,” Nevers said. “If left untreated, some STIs can cause infertility, recurrences, cancers or death, depending on the type of STI transmitted. Some STIs are curable while others are treatable which can help mitigate health impacts.”

More than half of all sexually active individuals will catch an STI at some point in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases can include herpes, HIV, genital warts, crabs and others, all of which can spread in a variety of ways-- not just regular ol’ vanilla penis-in-vagina sex.

While many STI’s be treated with antibiotics, they can cause permanent damage to your important bits. Some, like HIV, can even cause death, which puts a major damper on your love life.

There are a variety of ways to prevent spreading the ‘love’ so to speak, and all can save both you and your partner(s) an undue amount of pain and embarrassment.  

First of all, getting tested is an important step in making sure you are aware of your health. Even if you haven’t had any sexual partners, some diseases can be passed down from your mother in utero, or simply through seemingly innocent contact. Fun fact: About 50 percent of all adults in America have oral herpes (cold sores), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can be spread through kissing.

Vaccinations are also an important step to take in STI prevention. HPV and Hepatitis B both have vaccinations available, and doctors recommend that all young adults get vaccinated before becoming sexually active, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Talk to your doctor if you haven’t been vaccinated yet (and no, it doesn’t cause autism.)

Wearing a latex condom (or a dental dam) creates a physical barrier that prevents the exchange of bodily fluids that many STI’s require for infection.

“Students who are sexually active can also practice safer sex techniques which includes using external (also known as male) or internal (also known as female) condoms, dental dams, gloves and lubrication to reduce risk of contracting STIs with each sex partner,” Nevers said. “For students concerned about HIV there is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylactics).”

Condoms are easy to get on campus too-- just stop by the Health Education Office, Infirmary, Rainbow Center or the Women’s Health Center. They also come in an interesting variety of colors.

A word of warning: non barrier birth control methods such as intrauterine devices, the patch, the ring, the shot, the pill, Plan B and cycle planning may prevent pregnancy, but they do NOT prevent STI contraction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re using any of these methods, play it safe and use a barrier.

Abstinence is the most effective method to prevent catching an STI, Nevers said, with a 100 percent effectiveness rate-- because, well, they are called ‘sexually transmitted’ for a reason. You can’t get an STI through drinking fountains, fist bumps or any sort of contact that doesn’t involve doin’ it.

Ultimately, the best way to prevent catching an STI if you choose to be sexually active is to be open and honest with your partner(s). Don’t hide your concerns and think it’ll go away or not become an issue-- STI’s can make your life, or your partner’s life, a lot worse if you aren’t clear with what’s up.

“Students can take many steps to reduce their risk of contracting STIs,” Nevers said. “A student can talk about reducing their risk to STIs with their healthcare provider or can stop by our office to discuss what options might work for them.”

If you miss out on the testing on Tuesday because you have class, didn’t make it in time or were too busy working on your dabbing technique for your friend’s holiday party, you can still get tested at your local Planned Parenthood (the closest one to UConn is in Willimantic), your doctor/gynecologist or at the Health Center, through your insurance company, Nevers said.

“Student Health Services offers free clinics throughout the semester around campus,” she said.  “The Rainbow Center offers free HIV and Hepatitis C testing throughout the semester through another organization. There are free to low cost clinics available for students across the state.”

No matter who you are, what you do, what your lifestyle choices are or what kind of breakfast cereal you eat in the morning, your health is important. Don’t mess up and get a disease that can cause you to experience a variety of horrible symptoms. Go and get yourself tested!


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.