Demand free STD testing

Dani+Goedken+discusses+the+importance+of+sexual+education+and+sex+resources+in+regards+to+UNI%27s+recent+changes+to+their+STD+testing+policy.

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Dani Goedken discusses the importance of sexual education and sex resources in regards to UNI’s recent changes to their STD testing policy.

DANI GOEDKEN, Opinion Columnist

Sex is normal and natural but there is still a stigma around it. This stigma restricts us from giving those who need the proper education and resources what they need. Sex education is exceedingly important, and we can see sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy rates go down in other communities when there is better education and access to resources. Another way to practice safe sex is to have access to free STD testing. Without these crucial factors we will see rates rise, and Black Hawk County will remain on top of this list. In the middle of a pandemic it is easy to forget that there are other diseases and illnesses that are huge problems, one of these is STDs. Black Hawk county is home to the highest STD rates in Iowa.

When a person contracts an STD there are not always symptoms. Without free access to STD testing many people will not get tested and will spread the illness to many others. Many STDs are curable when caught early on. If not treated they can cause many health issues. Also, already having an STD makes it more likely that you will get another STD like HIV.

Adolescents are likely to explore their sexuality; we know this. College students are going to have sex. According to Eyes Open Iowa, Black Hawk County has a population of 133,455 with 9,421 teens that are 15-19 years old. Teen birth rates are down, a decrease of 31% since 2011, but that doesn’t mean we can stop there. Statewide teens 15-19 years old are 22% of chlamydia cases, 18% of gonorrhea and 5% of syphilis. There are also 109 people living with HIV/AIDS. Combined totals of men and women with chlamydia and/or gonorrhea are nearly 4,000 cases.

While STD rates are not on a decline, we see that teen birth rates are down 31% since 2011, but why is that? Today we have access to more educational resources, and kids are learning how to have safer sex. It is proven that people with more sexual education are more likely to have safer sex and avoid unwanted pregnancies.

While there are many options within the community many of them are not feasible. The UNI Health Center does not have free testing and Planned Parenthood does not have free testing. These are the two closest and most accessible locations for testing outside of hospitals. Students with no insurance or insurance that does not cover STD tests are at a severe disadvantage and are at a larger risk for larger health issues related to STDs. Up until the current academic year UNI had offered free testing to students. Now, STD testing is only offered by fee or insurance.

It is clear that STDs are an issue in our community. More needs to be done by our community and our university to help keep us safe. Free testing and better education are crucial to this effort.