Free STD screening loses popularity

Study finds half of students do not go to their scheduled appointments

By Thomas Doolittle ‘17

Contributing Writer

Only half of the students who made appointments for free sexual health screenings at Bailey Health Center attended them last semester, according to data from Lafayette College’s Director of Health Services Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein. Out of 64 available appointments, 52 students scheduled and only 26 ended up attending appointments for sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings.

The free screenings, which come from the third party organization Novus Adult Care Services (NovusACS), have been available at Lafayette for the last two years. Screenings became popular after a sex week initiative brought the services to campus.

Screenings were offered by NovusACSat Bailey Health Center for a total of eight days last semester.Appointments were available from 10a.m. to 2 p.m.and each appointment was a half hour long.But, not all of the slots filled up, according to Goldstein.

“The schedules are not completely full most of the time and when they are full, there’s a lot of no shows,” Goldstein said. No shows, Goldstein said, prevent other students from being seen who may be in need or want of a screening.

According to Jazmin Turner ‘18, a student who has received STD testing at Bailey Health Center, one reason why students may miss their appointments is the length of time it takes between scheduling and testing.

“It takes a really long time to get an appointment,” Turner said, adding that the health center does not send a reminder for the free STD screening appointments.

Turner said she once made an appointment in November and had to wait a month to see the doctor. She wrote a reminder for the appointment in her notes, but still forgot.

“If you’re waiting a month and you forget, that’s a long time,” Turner said.

The rate of missed appointments at Lafayette mirrors the national average, saidowner and Director of NovusACSDr. Allen Smith.

“Across the board, [the] no-show rate for [STD screening] runs 50 percent—no different from a doctor’s office,” Smith said.

“People get busy, people have emergencies, the students have exams or something to do so they don’t show up,” he added.

When students miss their appointments at Lafayette, though, it creates a disincentive for NovusACS to send doctors to campus, Smith said.

“Sometimes we cancel because there’s no students on the schedule. Sometimes if there’s no more than one or two people on the schedule, we don’t send someone out there,” he said.

Whether or not students take advantage of the free services offered by NovusACS, Goldstein said there are still options available for students to get screened.

“Anybody, anytime, any day can come in for screening through insurance,” Goldstein said.

According to Goldstein, a lot of the appointments at the health center are filled for sexual health reasons. One hundred eight women had some form of STI testing last semester through the Woman’s Clinic at Lafayette, and 73 other students were seen by Lafayette’s health center, Goldstein said. These numbers do not account for students who regularly see their family doctors and gynecologists, he added.

While Goldstein said that going through insurance is a viable option for students looking to get screened for STDs/STIs, he acknowledges that some students may be uncomfortable with using their insurance for this kind of testing.

“The biggest issue for not using the services that are available here is the fact that it shows up on your insurance,” Goldstein said. “Your parents may see on the insurance an explanation of a bill that there’s a test for this or that.”

For Smith, this fear of stigma could be a potential reason that students avoid getting tested at Lafayette.

“I will say that there are more and more students that are coming from Lafayette directly from the office to avoid the stigma of having to go to the health center,” Smith said, adding that roughly 30 Lafayette students drove to Bethlehem for a screening directly at the NovusACS office.

But Smith said that there shouldn’t be a stigma related to testing.

“Just because someone’s getting tested doesn’t mean they’re positive,” he said. For sexually active young adults, there is a responsibility to be routinely making screening appointments, he added.

According to Goldstein, college students are one of the age groups that should be checked for STDs/STIs annually.

The World Health Organization identifies “over 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites” that can be passed through sexual contact. According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, “Nearly half of the 20 million newSTDseach year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24 years.”

“The reality is many, if not most of these diseases are in the form of a carrier state,” Goldstein said. “You don’t know if you’re carrying an STI until you get screened.”