Free STI screening coming to Dal

Screening for STI’s “should not be a taboo thing,”

All it takes is a quick swab for females to screen for STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Photo: Deborah Oomen

Students in the health promotion program at Dalhousie University want to get more people talking about sexual health, starting with sexually transmitted infections.

On Wednesday Nov. 19, a group of students is teaming up with Dal’s health services to offer free STI screenings of chlamydia and gonorrhoea to female Dal students. The clinic will take place in room 224 of the Student Union Building, between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students have to bring their Canadian health cards,  international students must bring their DalCard.

The clinic is only offered to female students because it is a self-administered swab. The students are not qualified to handle urine samples, which is how males get tested.

“In terms of prevention, obviously condom use is number one. Secondary to that is screening,” said Zoé Bordeleau-Cass, a third-year student in Dal’s communicable disease course who also works with Dalhousie’s Student Health Promotion office.

She said getting people to talk about STIs is difficult but nonetheless important in a university setting, where fewer than half (49.5 per cent) of Dal students are using condoms.

“So it’s like, OK, please use a condom. But also know that there are other things you should be doing to take care of your sexual health. And this should not be a taboo thing.”

Fourth-year student Jessica Bauer said a free and convenient option for STI screening leaves students with no excuse not to get screened. Hearing that chlamydia is on the rise in N.S. was not surprising to her, as it’s becoming more common on campus too. Bauer’s only concern is that she doesn’t think many students have heard that the screenings are taking place.

“I think it’s a great idea to have screenings on campus, but people need to know about it or what’s the point?” she asked.

Starting next term, the Dalhousie Health Promotion team will be organizing more frequent mobile STI screening clinics. Once a nurse practitioner is hired, free screenings will be offered around campus to both men and women.

Joe Gillis is in his fourth year at Dal and doesn’t think he would use an on-campus screening if available. He said when he gets screened he wants to be on the look-out for all STIs, not just what Dal is checking for. Gillis finds that in a university setting, “people are pretty relaxed about their sexual health, but I think it’s getting better as we get older.”

Derrick Enslow, Dalhousie’s health promotion program manager, said that there is not enough talk about STIs on campus. He hopes that combining the mobile clinics, working with other faculties, and creating resources applicable to university students, that talking about sexual health will become the norm.

Dal Student Health Promotion offices can be found on the 2nd floor of the new Lemarchant building. Photo: Deborah Oomen

“People are more receptive if something is written in a way that’s familiar to them,” said Enslow. “If it’s coming from another student, like nursing students who have backgrounds in health and wellness, they’ll be more receptive to the information than if it was a clinical document or pamphlet.”

These initiatives, as well as redeveloping the university’s online health information, is the beginning of a five-year strategic plan to do more for students’ health.

This year the university raised its health fee by  three per cent. Over the month of November, Student Health Promotion will be holding a number of student consultations regarding the fee increase and different health related topics. The focus groups will look at information from the survey to gain insight into the context behind the numbers and gage students’ awareness of services available to them.

“There’s probably more we could be doing,” said Enslow. “That’s why we want to have these consultations with students.”

 

 

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One thought on “Free STI screening coming to Dal

  1. It is unfortunate that men and women are not both being screened but if a woman tests positive hopefully there will be a process of informing her sexual contacts so that they can be tested and treated.

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