Often before becoming sexually active, college students are denied access to proper sexual and reproductive health education. Most states have no explicit laws requiring medically accurate sexual education courses. I grew up in Kentucky where my sex ed class consisted of an unqualified teacher showing explicit slides of genital herpes as a scare tactic. Unfortunately, the inefficacy of this so called sex ed has major impacts into adulthood. My column aims to provide support for students actively seeking to become more sexually literate. A repercussion of the lack of adequate education is unhealthy sexual behavior that we see and experience on our own campus.
Whether or not you choose to be sexually active college you have a responsibility to be educated. Not having sex is okay, having sex is okay, asking your partner for affirmative consent is okay, asking for their most recent STD test results is okay, getting tested regularly is okay, being open about your desires or boundaries is okay.
One of the best services on campus for open conversations about sex and health is the Zerfoss Student Health Center. Unfortunately, routine STD testing is a resource many Vanderbilt students forgo. When arriving at student health, you’ll check in on the computers like you would for any other health concern. After being called by a nurse into a private room, they’ll take your weight and blood pressure and ask if there are any concerns or symptoms that have prompted you to come in. After waiting for a few minutes again, you’ll be called in to speak with another nurse. If this is your first time being tested, they will ask you a series of questions that may make you uncomfortable. You may be asked if your partners are male or female, how many partners you’ve had since you’ve become sexually active and how many partners you’ve had in the last six months. The staff exist to be a source of support for their patients. They aren’t there to shame or embarrass you and it’s crucial to always be honest.
Once they’ve gathered a complete sexual history, you will be asked to go to the lab for the tests. The first routine set of STD tests are for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Female patients are given instructions to go to a bathroom with a long cotton swab and vial of liquid. You close the door to the bathroom and insert the swab in your vagina to get a sample and leave it in the vial in a basket. Male patients give a urine sample for gonorrhea and chlamydia tests. If you elect to test for HIV and syphilis, a lab technician will take your blood. After a few days, expect an email with a link to your MyHealth account where you can access results and instructions on how to proceed if you are positive for any infections.
The Health Center is a special place on campus. The staff is respectful and knowledgeable of all sexualities and gender identities and the health and safety of the students is their top priority. Being comfortable and honest with whomever you are speaking to is in your best interest. Your STD tests will never be sent home to your family and nothing will be put on your insurance without your consent. If you have Gallagher student insurance, routine chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis tests are free of charge. If you choose to pay out of pocket, chlamydia and gonorrhea tests are each $5 and, as of this semester, HIV and syphilis blood tests are free of charge for all students. It is recommended that you get tested every six months. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.myhealthatvanderbilt.com/.