Sex Week offers STI testing

Sex Week director Allie Bauer ’12 and Wanda Richardson from the Connecticut Department of Public Health tested 80 students for STIs on Tuesday.
Sex Week director Allie Bauer ’12 and Wanda Richardson from the Connecticut Department of Public Health tested 80 students for STIs on Tuesday. Photo by Christopher Peak.

During the final two days of Sex Week 2012, over 100 students were screened for sexually transmitted infections in what organizers called the first testing service offered on campus outside of Yale Health.

On Monday, the Community Healthcare Van — which provides health services throughout New Haven — tested 20 students on Park Street behind the Yale Cabaret, and on Tuesday students could visit the Women’s Center for STI testing conducted by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. On both days, New Haven’s Department of Health offered HIV counseling and testing in William L. Harkness Hall. Allie Bauer ’12, a Sex Week director who organized the testing services, said the event was intended to provide care to students who had never been tested or had difficulties arranging an appointment at Yale Health.

In a survey of 2,364 Yale students conducted by the Sexual Literacy Coalition, 55 percent of respondents who said they are sexually active have never been tested, according to Bauer, the organization’s co-president. She added that roughly 19 percent of respondents having vaginal sex never or rarely use barrier protection.

Bauer said students without physical symptoms must schedule an appointment at Yale Health, which she said makes many students feel “getting tested was not worth the wait.” Wanda Richardson, an epidemiologist for the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s STD Control Program, said many students who were screened on Tuesday mentioned that they have to wait or make an appointment to be tested at Yale Health. At the two-day event, students could learn the results of an HIV test in 20 minutes, while other tests take a few weeks to process.

Mara Dauphin ’12, who used the services, said the event made the process of getting tested much more convenient.

“STI testing coming to campus made it easy for me,” she said. “It takes a really long time … to get gynecology appointments at Yale’s Health Services.”

A receptionist for Yale Health’s Student Health department reached Tuesday afternoon said they had openings within two days. Director of University Health Services Paul Genecin could not be reached for comment. Yale Health had initially planned to partner with Bauer to hold the event, she said, but by the time administrators approved Sex Week in December, Yale Health staff were already booked with appointments and could not help with the efforts.

Richardson, who offers testing at other schools in the area such as Wesleyan University, the University of New Haven and the University of Connecticut, said she usually sees around 50 students on an average school day, while they tested 80 at Yale on Tuesday.

Patrick Armstrong, the coordinator for AIDS Counseling & Testing Services at New Haven’s Department of Health, said many Yale students formerly used the city’s services to get tested about twenty years ago, but when the department began to focus more on people who with higher-risk behaviors, Armstrong said many Yale students felt the service was no longer for them.

Bauer said she hopes the event’s overlap with Valentine’s Day reminds couples that getting tested is an important part of “trust and intimacy,” adding that “there’s no better Valentine’s gift than a little testing.”

For free and confidential STI testing throughout the year, students can make an appointment at Yale Health or call the New Haven Department of Health.

Correction: Feb. 20

A previous version of the graphic for this article included a statistic from the Sexual Literacy Coalition survey that 58 percent of respondents reported that their last sexual relationship was a one-time encounter. In fact, that figure referred to the percent of respondents whose last sexual relationship was a one-time encounter and who have never been tested for STIs.

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