Lehigh is taking active measures to provide accessible health resources for students, specifically through common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and sexually transmitted disease (STD) tests.
Two specialists from the Lehigh Valley Health Network came to Lehigh’s Center for Gender Equity to screen students for HIV on Oct. 3. The free screenings offered students an alternative to testing, which is crucial as infectious diseases spread around college campuses frequently.
Georgia Kiriakou, ‘23, said the availability of infectious testing on Lehigh’s campus is necessary.
“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that Lehigh really makes an effort in providing students with sufficient resources and outlets for STD testing and STD education,” Kiriakou said. “If these resources were not available or reliable, I would go out of my way to ensure that I know where else I could resort to nearby to be screened.”
Confidentiality is an aspect of testing that is less frequently addressed, said Karen Sicinski, Lehigh STI screening coordinator and a registered nurse at the Health and Wellness Center. She said some students may feel embarrassed or burdened if their results come back positive for the disease they are tested for.
Unless students choose to tell their previous partner about a positive test result, the Health and Wellness Center does not notify contacts. However, students are encouraged to do so on their own.
“Positive test results are automatically registered in the Pennsylvania state database,” Sicinski said. “Those individuals with positive results are advised by health center staff that they may be contacted by the local health bureau to ensure treatment was received and offer assistance with notifying contacts.”
In addition to confidentiality, the comfort of knowing that there are available resources to get tested is crucial to students.
Adam Freeman, ‘22, said he feels better knowing there is free STI testing available on campus.
“It’s a great resource for students to take advantage of,” he said.
Free screenings relieve students from the financial burden of testing. Without health insurance, STI testing can cost up to $200 — even if the results are negative.
The screenings in October were free to all students. However, if a student goes to the health center to be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea, there is a $15 fee.
“It is easy to assume that all students on this campus can afford adequate healthcare and endless testing, but I have noticed how diverse the student body is here at Lehigh, and I definitely realize that everyone comes from very different backgrounds,” Kiriakou said.
If the fee is an issue, Sicinski said the health center works to connect students with either Saint Luke’s Hospital or Notice clinics because they provide walk-in testing at no cost and are available Monday through Saturday.
Sicinski said Lehigh has been taking steps to increase the availability of free screening on campus.
“What we have tried to do with HIV testing is having two departments on campus,” Sicinski said. “These two departments are the Pride Center and the Center for Gender Violence. The Center for Gender Violence hosted free screenings in October, but they plan to host them again in April. The idea behind this is to ensure that students feel comfortable in more than one area on campus.”