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University Health Services Requests $420,000 From Student Fee Board To Provide Free STI Testing

Penn State University Health Services (UHS) is requesting $420,000 in student fee funding to provide free sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing to the first 10,000 student requestors during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

UHS Senior Director Robin Oliver-Veronesi presented the request to the Board Friday morning. If approved and funded, the new program would provide confidential testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia at no cost to students. Students would also have access to syphilis testing, though this will not be included in the initial funded program.

Oliver-Veronesi and her team are working alongside University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) Student Life Chair Jacob Klipstein, Speaker Tom Sarabok, and representatives Patricia Birungi and Kara Doluisio to organize the initiative.

Oliver-Veronesi explained that UHS administered 5,492 gonorrhea and chlamydia tests in 2018. Almost 1,300 of them were self-tests, while 4,194 were collected by clinicians.

In the fall of 2019, UHS acquired the equipment necessary to test gonorrhea and chlamydia specimens in-house without sending them to a reference lab, lowering the cost of one test in most cases from $200 to $42. Results obtained through in-house testing are obtained in hours instead of days.

The new program would provide these tests at UHS’s in-house lab at no cost, but its benefits extend beyond financial support, according to Oliver-Veronesi.

“Cost elimination will remove the chance that student confidentiality will be compromised,” she said. “Cost elimination empowers students to seek care for treatable infections. And cost elimination leading to early detection and early treatment will prevent downstream and more severe ill health effects from longstanding infections.”

Confidentiality is perhaps the biggest benefit of cost elimination, Oliver-Veronesi explained, and the most likely reason for a projected increase in students seeking testing if the initiative is adopted.

“It’s not so much a cost as it is a confidentiality issue. Students don’t want those tests results or any indication they had any testing done, going to parents.”

Oliver-Veronesi called the program a “pilot,” noting that UHS may choose to adjust aspects such as the number of guaranteed tests as the program progresses.

Funding for the program will not be confirmed until the Fee Board conducts its final vote, which will take place within the next two months.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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