Free STD testing draws around 200 students

FREE TESTING: Students attended the Sexual Health Awareness event, hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government’s Health and Wellness department. Students were able to get STD tested for free at the event. (Photo Courtesy of ASU USG)

Nearly 200 ASU students took advantage of free STD testing offered at the first-ever “One Glove” Sexual Health Awareness Event.

The Tempe campus event marks a new partnership between Undergraduate Student Government and the Maricopa County Department of Health.

Bree Farmer, health and wellness director for USG, organized the event in response to what she perceives as a common belief that ASU has the highest STD rate of any university.

Maricopa County grants for sexual health education funded the free testing, according to Heather James, field services supervisor for Maricopa County Department of Health’s STD department.

“We’ve never partnered with ASU before, so we’re excited that so many people showed up,” she said.

Farmer said the county was eager to join forces with USG to increase sexual health awareness among ASU students.

“They were friendly to work with and I could not have asked for more from them,” she said.

Bob Marley’s lyrics inspired Farmer to create the slogan, “One Glove,” which she had printed on T-shirts that were distributed across campus prior to the event. The backs of the shirts sported the line, “Let’s get tested and feel alright.”

“STDs can be prevented by simply one glove,” Farmer said, referring to condoms. “It is a simple strategy to a complex encounter.”

The event took place on the Student Recreation Complex Field and resembled anything but the anxiety-ridden scene of a clinic waiting room.

The sounds of a live DJ flooded the brightly lit field while students chatted and noshed on free pizza in line to have their blood drawn.

Students were tested for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. James said she doesn’t see frequent occurrences of HIV and syphilis among the college-age population, but that chlamydia and gonorrhea are more common.

In some cases, the bacterial infections known as chlamydia and gonorrhea go untreated because they don’t present any noticeable symptoms, and carriers pass them on to new partners unknowingly, she said.

In 2009, cases of gonorrhea were at their lowest level ever reported among the entire U.S. population, but chlamydia diagnoses continued to increase, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The CDC attributes this to increased screening, which it calls a positive sign, but notes that less than half of those who should be screened are getting tested.

Age is a significant risk factor, the CDC study reported, noting that sexually active adolescents and young adults are at a greater risk for STD infection than older adults.

One of the students in line for testing was Eric Lee, a business communication freshman.

“I usually practice safe sex, but you never really know,” Lee said.

He was accompanied by business law freshman Conner Spani who admitted to having a less-than-perfect record of safe sex.

“I figured it was about time I got tested,” he said.

Dr. Jo Katz, staff physician and section chief for women’s health for ASU Campus Health Service, said her hardest job in counseling ASU’s female students about sexual health is telling them not to blindly trust their partners.

“I also see a lack of respect for what alcohol can do,” she said. Katz represented Campus Health at a table next to the testing area, offering sexual health information resources to attendees.

James recommends getting tested every six months and always using protection. She said the county offers express testing for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea for $20, and clients receive their results within a few days to avoid the worry of a lengthy wait.

The county STD clinic is located at 1645 E. Roosevelt Street in Phoenix and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and accepts walk-in patients.

Campus Health offers the same tests and recommends calling 480-965-3349 to make an appointment. The cost may be covered through private insurance plans, or it can be billed to a student’s ASU account.

“Overall, the event reached a lot of people,” said Cara Stotelmyer, press coordinator for USG. “[In the spring] we intend to make this a much bigger event in order to reach more students, since sexual health is a big subject for college students.”

Reach the reporter at rsutherl@asu.edu