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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Grinnell Needs Better STI Testing

STD testing is a corner stone in basic health for those who are sexually active. Even those who use protection should get tested semi-regularly if they have more than one partner. But no matter how many times students are told to get tested, if testing itself is anything less than free and accessible, students won’t find the time nor motivation to seek out the correct resources.

SHAW does not offer free, confidential STD testing on campus for any STD beyond HIV in any regular capacity. Instead, nurses direct students to off campus resources that do not fully recognize the difficulties behind getting STD tested. 

The simple fact is that not having resources on campus will already deter a number of students from getting regularly tested. But the process gets even more complicated than simply seeking an off campus doctor in Grinnell. So first, let’s walk through the process of getting STD tested at Grinnell College:

To start, you set up an appointment to meet with a SHAW nurse. You can do this either over the phone or in person during SHAW’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours, the hours where students are largely in class. 

With just how busy they are right now, the next available appointment that does not interrupt one of your classes could be a couple days down the line. The appointment itself is not for testing, but rather a consultation for where else you can go. If your parents are ok with you getting tested or you aren’t on their insurance, there are several doctor’s offices in town available.

If you are worried about your parents finding an STD test charge on your insurance, you must now find confidential testing. Confidential testing is available at Planned Parenthood, the closest of which is in Des Moines, or you can go to primary healthcare out of Marshalltown. 

In order to get a confidential charge at the Marshalltown Hospital, you must first call them and get in contact with one of the managers, who are not always present. The managers can then request a confidential charge on your behalf. Even a confidential charge will still show up on your insurance, just not state the specific reason for your visit.

If you want to not use your insurance altogether, the test could be hundreds of dollars depending on where you go.

If you don’t have a car and don’t have friends that could drive you to your appointment, you then must organize a ride through SHAW. You need to pay the driver and gas for the ride.If you can’t afford the copays on the test itself, you then need to apply for the Title X grant through the Marshalltown Hospital.

From the time you have started the process to when you are actually given an STD test is, at minimum, three days from when you first started. 

Essentially, there are dozens of obstacles along the way that are going to prevent an increasing number of students from actually going through with testing. The student who takes the time to call the Marshalltown Hospital might not go through the effort of arranging a ride. The student who goes and seeks help at SHAW might not take the time to arrange an off campus appointment. The stops along the way where students will drop the process are endless.

Grinnell normally offers a free testing clinic twice a year to test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Unfortunately, because SHAW is so busy with their vaccine clinics, the usual fall STD clinic does not appear like it is going to happen. 

First off, the willingness to cancel the clinic is a significant medical oversight, but even in a normal year only offering free, confidential testing for two days out of the year is insufficient. While it is a good start to comprehensive sexual health care, students are not only having sex for those two days. If a student starts experiencing symptoms any other time of year, or simply wants to have a more routine check-in, they still must go through the deeply complicated process of arranging a test. 

Deb Shill, director of health services, hopes to one-day look into the possibility of providing such services on campus.

“I want to look into this with the state of Iowa,” she says, “to find out if it’s feasible to do those tests in our office on a regular basis or what that looks like.”

In the meantime, however, there is a noticeable gap in SHAW’s coverage. In fact, it seems like most other Liberal Arts college in the Midwest has already figured out the logistics. Oberlin, Kenyon, Macalester, and Carleton, just to list a few, all provide some form of on-campus testing. So why is Grinnell so behind in providing this basic service?

Grinnell College should look to invest their time and resources into a more comprehensive STD testing program that doesn’t require students to jump through hoops just to find services that won’t alert their family or break their wallets or force them to travel to the next town over.

For students looking for other forms of sexual health coverage, SHAW does provide HIV testing, free contraceptives, and discounted Plan B. They also partner with SHIC (Sexual Health Information Center) to get a student based perspective on sexual health, although SHIC has not been fully functioning since the start of 2020. 

Sexual health is often a taboo. Seeking medical services for such purposed can be embarrassing and confusing, and for students, particularly those still on their parents’ insurance, finding and receiving the help they need can be generally difficult. The more steps between students’ first contact with SHAW and when they can actually get tested, the less students will go through the process. Grinnell College should increase their active role in improving the sexual health of their student body by providing free, confidential STD testing on campus. 


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About the Contributor
Eleanor Corbin
Eleanor Corbin, Editor in Chief
Eleanor is a fourth-year political science major with a concentration in statistics. Nine out of ten times she is ready and willing to discuss embroidery, types of loose-leaf tea, and metal music. Best approached with her favorite candy, cherry Twizzler bites, in hand.
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