While many students feel the stigma of discussing sexual wellness and sexually transmitted infections with healthcare providers, ASU students can still take full responsibility of their sexual health using accessible resources.
Another way to reduce rates of STI transmission is by being tested regularly. ASU offers walk-in STI testing on all campuses through the health center.
"For walk-in testing, students can choose the tests they would like for a fee of $20 each. Walk-in STI testing can include one or all of the following tests: 1) Gonorrhea; 2) Chlamydia; 3) HIV and 4) Syphilis," a University spokesperson said in an email.
"Walk-in STI testing is ONLY recommended for those who are NOT having symptoms. If an individual has any symptoms of STI, it is recommended they see a medical provider for evaluation," the University spokesperson said.
Students who want to prevent the spread of STIs, but are also not comfortable or able to use ASU services, can also find accessible testing and free condoms and dental dams through Planned Parenthood.
Tempe campus students may have noticed that the Planned Parenthood health center in Tempe is currently closed. According to Andrew Feldman, a Planned Parenthood Arizona spokesperson, this is only temporary.
"Our other centers are open except for the Tempe health center for construction and updating equipment. It should be open in the next couple months. For now, all the other health centers are open," Feldman said.
Currently, Planned Parenthood has centers in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Glendale, Mesa and Tucson. All health centers can provide STI testing and free condoms and dental dams.
To make the experience more comfortable for people who struggle with openly discussing their sexual wellness, Planned Parenthood and ASU make the STI education and testing process as private as possible, especially during the billing and follow up process.
"Fees for STI testing are not collected at time of visit, but will post to student account as a Health Service charge (confidential)," said the University spokesperson in an email. "If any results are positive, the student will receive a confidential patient portal message from ASUHS medical staff regarding information on how to obtain treatment."
At Planned Parenthood, privacy is similarly protected.
"We know that sometimes younger patients can be concerned about receiving STI/STD testing and having that care show up on their Explanation of Benefits from their health insurance company if the patient is on their parent or guardian's health plan," said Jill Gibson, the medical director for Planned Parenthood Arizona, in an email. "If patients are really worried about a type of service showing up on their Explanation of Benefits, they do also have the option of paying cash for any services."
Gibson also stressed that students do not need to feel uncomfortable speaking with medical professionals about their sexual health.
"At Planned Parenthood, all we do all day long is talk about reproductive anatomy, and STIs, and birth control. This is our bread and butter – there is no stigma or shame associated with any of this for us," Gibson said in the email.
While STI testing and prevention is a critical part of sexual wellness, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Colleen Cordes is a clinical professor in the College of Health Solutions. Much of her work is training future doctors to understand sexual health holistically and in conjunction with other health topics.
"Having any sort of sexual partner or sexual encounter requires us to be safe. And not only from a pregnancy prevention standpoint, but from a sort of sexually transmitted infection standpoint, and also from an intimate partner violence standpoint," Cordes said.
Even looking exclusively at the STI standpoint, STI testing should not be a one-time consideration, instead it has to be part of a consistent effort to monitor and test oneself.
"You can test negative for sexually transmitted infection at time A, and then test positive at time B. A single time of testing is probably not the safest route to go, right? Don't only take advantage of (ASU) testing in May, also take advantage in August," Cordes said.
For students who want to learn more about sex and sexual wellness, the student organization Devils in the Bedroom is a sexual education group for panels and social meetings to break the stigma of discussing sex.
"We are an education-based organization. Our goal is to just provide students with the information that they need to make well-informed decisions for their own sexual health," said Melanie Buathier, a junior studying forensic science and biology and the education coordinator for DITB.
DITB also addresses the holistic understanding of sexual wellness.
"A lot of high schools are very limited in what they can teach, such as consent and boundaries, which I feel is the basis of a good strong foundation in sexual health and wellness. Everything else with sexual health builds off of that," Buathier said.
DITB focuses on areas in sexual health that medical centers may not prioritize and provides a less clinical setting to discuss the subject, rounding out the ways in which students can take control of their sexual wellness.
Edited by River Graziano, Reagan Priest and Grace Copperthite.
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