Staff Editorial: Health Center must be transparent with details of new GYT program

Next month, the Health Center for Student Care will be piloting a new program to replace the Get Yourself Tested initiative, which had previously provided students with free and comprehensive testing for sexually transmitted diseases and infections. While the Health Center taking significant strides to improve the program, student health will largely be dependent on the transparency of Campus Health and students’ resulting knowledge of the revised program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, young people ages 13-24 accounted for approximately 22 percent of HIV cases in the U.S. in 2015. About half of the 20 million new cases of STDs and STIs reported every year are reported in those ages of 15-24. Though many cases arise in young people, only about 12 percent of people in that age group got tested last year.

These statistics show a discrepancy Tulane students should take seriously, and the Health Center’s planned changes indicate Health Center staff and faculty want to make it easier for students to take responsibility for their sexual health. If the Health Center truly wants students to utilize the new GYT program, the center must publicize and make transparent its efforts.  

Though the medical aspect of the program will be similar, there will be changes that will affect students, and the Health Center has not yet addressed how all these changes will impact the Tulane community.

HIV tests will still be offered as they were before, but it is unclear for which STIs students can be tested. Medical professionals, rather than peer health educators, will now conduct and facilitate testing sessions. 

Though HIV testing will remain free, certain STI screenings might cost students a fee. There are students who either do not have the ability to pay for these services out of pocket or do not have insurance plans that cover the tests and related services.

Payment through insurance, rather than free tests, also diminishes the confidentiality the old GYT program offered. By paying through insurance, the tests that are done may appear on insurance bills, which could make students using the program uncomfortable.

Another accessibility issue lies in the availability of appointments. The Health Center needs to ensure that the new GYT service will be offered often enough for students to make appointments without having to wait until it is too late.

Students who are sexually active need to take measures to keep themselves, their partners and their peers healthy. For students to take an active role in creating and maintaining a safe environment for themselves and others, we need to know what will be available to us.

Sexual health is not something with which we should be taking any chances. It is important that the details of the new program be adequately publicized so students can know the benefits and costs associated with this new program. It is then the responsibility of students to use any and all available resources to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

Staff Editorials are written weekly by members of The Tulane Hullabaloo Board and approved by the full Board by a 2/3 majority vote. 

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