Health center provides STD testing

Dierrica Smith

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The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Vinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Vinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

Students who are looking to be tested for STDs can receive testing and treatment at the Vinson Health Center. The health center not only provides checkups, but also testing for STDs and safe-sex provisions.

Keith Williamson, campus medical director, said, “It (STD) is not a slur on your character, or your intellect, or your mom or your dad or your grandparents, or anything, it is an infectious disease.”

Williamson, said, “Sex has consequences, in addition to the emotional turmoil that can be associated with unwise sexual choices, there is the risk of starting another life in this world that you may not be ready to take responsibility for. There are financial and legal entanglements.  There are STDs, of which there are a myriad, but the primary four that we worry about would be HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.”

Each year, one in four teens contracts a STD or a STI. Also, each year, there are close to three million new cases of chlamydia which are mainly in adolescents and young adults according to ashasexualhealth.org

Ashley Williams, nursing sophomore, said, “I have been tested for a STD, because I think it’s important to make sure that I don’t have anything harmful going on and that I am healthy.”

Williamson said he recommends that every woman between 15-25 get annual testing for STDs.

Briana Busby, English sophomore, said ,”I have never been tested for a STD before.”

 According to hhs.gov, adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STDs each year.

Williamson said, employees of the Vinson Health Center provide testing for STDs all year long. If a student has no symptoms and wants to be screened for a STD, a nurse will draw their blood and they will give a urine specimen to be tested.

Halil Hicks, respiratory care sophomore, said, “Getting tested for STDs on a regular basis is important, because you will be informed on  your current health conditions and will be able to notify your spouse or partner if something is occurring.”

Williamson said, “HIV is a bit more complicated and syphilis is extremely rare. There is a map that shows at a county level where you are most likely to run into syphilis and there is a little blue dot on Wichita Falls. We are the capital of syphilis, but there has only been about 10 cases in town.”

If a student tests positive for an STD, they are provided with post-test treatment and counseling.

Students can be tested for HIV, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. The tests can either be urine based, swab based or blood based. HIV and syphilis are blood based while gonorrhea and chlamydia are swab and urine based.

Williamson said, since he has been at the health center, he has only diagnosed three cases of syphilis.

The Vinson Health Center employees only provide services to current students.

Williamson said if a student comes in and says that they have a weird rash or abnormal symptoms, and they want to get an STD testing, they will have to see the doctor because they will need further evaluation.

STD tests are $23 for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV.

Williamson said, “For women, it is slightly better to swab the cervix directly than the urine based test. If someone has symptoms, I’m going to swab the cervix directly, but if they don’t have symptoms and they’re just screening, the urine based test is really good too.”

Prices are set and finalized as a group by the employees of the health center.

The office spends about $7,500 is spent on testing supplies.

In most instances testing takes about 10 minutes, but could take up to two hours to collect a urine specimen.

The blood tests are sent to local reference labs and come back within a few days, but the tests for chlamydia or gonorrhea are sent to the state lab in Fort Worth.

Williamson said, “Labs have three characteristics: speed, cost and quality. Rarely will you find a lab that has all three that are good. We have gone for quality and cost but they are slow. It takes them about two weeks to get the results back to us.”

The nursing staff call students on the phone to inform them of their results. If a student tests positive they are asked to come in, but if a student tests negative, they are told during the phone call.

“There are multiple reasons that prevent students from coming in,” Williamson said. “Lack of awareness that we are even here is a part of the problem. Everybody is told at orientation, but unless you are sick at orientation, it’s not one of those things that just stick. There is denial. There is fear. They figure they have something and they really don’t want to put themselves in that category. They confuse an infectious disease with some sort of social stigma.”

Each day, about 20-30 students come in for general medical services.

Williamson said, “Some days at the beginning of the semester, when the health science students need to get their immunizations updated, we have days where up to 100- 120 patients come in. We get about 6,000 individual patient encounters, for medical reasons, a year.”

Williamson annually gives lectures on STDs to the human sexuality classes and has also gone to dorms and has lectured in the lobby to residents on what steps to take to practice safe sex.

Williamson said representatives from the Vinson Health Center attend campus events and pass out condoms to spread awareness about the hazards of unprotected sex and STDs. They also attend classes and speak to students.

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