Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Welty center provides free HIV testing to students

The Welty Health Center offers free STD informationThe thought of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is enough to instill fear in the average college student. To combat the spread of STDs on campus, the Whitman Welty Health Center provides services that enable students to get tested for STDs efficiently and at the lowest cost possible.

The Health Center provides free and anonymous HIV testing, which has been available for 15 years. The testing was made available to students by a grant provided by Region 10 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the regional administrative authority for all the public health departments in the states of Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Oregon.

According to Ellen Collette, Director of the Health Center, students also have the option to get the “Orasure” HIV test at the Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, a good option for those uncomfortable with the standard blood test.

Between 2003 and 2005, the health center was also able to offer free Chlamydia and Gonorrhea testing through another HHS grant. This grant was available to the Public Health Department, Planned Parenthood and college campuses.

“The district was looking at how many positives they were picking up in each group. People often hold the opinion that college students may be irresponsible when it comes to…sexual safety, but the college student population had the lowest rate of asymptomatic disease out of the three populations covered in the program,” said Collette.

In 2006, the district got rid of the grant for Planned Parenthood and last year the Public Health Department started to charge a $25 appointment fee in order to have the testing done, due to severe cutbacks in federal funding. Whitman was able to secure funding so that students did not have to pay for this testing if they were willing to go to the Public Health Department.

“Last year the Dean of Students [dedicated] time and successful effort to procure temporary college funding to aid students who were financially unable to afford the $25 appointment fee,” said Collette.

This year, however, the cost has increased to $50.

“The increase of cost this year made it unfeasible for the college to subsidize the cost of the appointment fee, but fortunately, Planned Parenthood provided free testing without an appointment fee at the beginning of the academic calendar year. Unfortunately, since that time, Planned Parenthood has had to charge a $20 appointment fee, but the actual testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea is free,” said Collette.

Only HIV testing is provided at no cost and on an anonymous basis at the health center, Collette noted. The costs for all other tests are charged to the student by the lab processing specimens. Not all insurance companies cover these expenses, and the ones that do typically send an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) form to either the student or their parents. According to Collette, students wishing to bypass the insurance process and avoid disclosure have the option of paying the lab fees upfront.

“Paying the lab for the test prior to the processing of the test…means there would be no insurance forms sent to the student or family, and no bill sent to the student or family,” said Collette.

Along with the privacy concerns associated with the EOB, insurance coverage can also depends on the type of test and whether or not one’s insurance covers preventative care.

“A lot of policies don’t cover preventative care, which means students have no symptoms but just want to make sure they don’t have it. In this case the test might show up as a lab charge. Parents get the bill and might want to find out what it is,” said Collette.

The most common STDs tests that Whitman students request are for HPV, Hepatitis B, Syphilis and Herpes. Of these four, Herpes Simplex is the most commonly requested and HPV is generally the most commonly diagnosed.

“At this point, students both male and female who know about the STD testing use it. A lot of times students will come in with vaginal discharge or pelvic pain and it will end up being an STD,” said Collette. “I’m hoping once students know that STD testing is available they will come in and use the services.

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