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Creating an Unbiased Campus Health Environment

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April 24, 2014

Sex[+] week 1One in four college students has a sexually transmitted infection according to the Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center. While number is way too high, I refuse to be a statistic. Campus health centers should be furiously educating students about prevention and treatment of STI’s and creating campaigns for free condoms and wellness checks. I know that is not the case.

My friend at a university in an urban area went to her campus health center after she had vaginal discomfort, a rash, and a fever. The nurse practitioner heard her symptoms and, without even doing a physical examination or asking about her sexual history, handed out antibiotics for an ingrown hair. She proceeded to get sicker and had to lie around in bed for days. After the insistence on a family member who was a doctor she took herself to the emergency room and found out she had herpes. A common and treatable illness the nurse practitioner would have noticed after simply looking at her. It was an unnecessary financial and physical burden to her that she had to pay for carelessness. The question I have is whether it was careless or prejudice. My friend is young looking, clean cut, and has a quiet demeanor. She did not receive the care she needed because the nurse saw her as “too pure” for an STI.

Some people may experience the opposite interaction, I know that I have. Having been in a monogamous relationship with the same person for over four years, we were both tested of STI’s before becoming sexually active. Yet, each time I go for my annual physical my doctor insists that I get an STI screening. It is condescending to me and my relationship and an additional medical cost that is unnecessary.

The important connection between these two stories is that we aren’t being heard or taken seriously. There is a bias in treatment based on age, appearance, or perceived sexuality that costs money and causes harm. Campus health centers and doctors who treat college aged students need to understand that every patient is an individual. There needs to be a revolution of care that holds no bias or judgment for students to feel safe discussing real health problems.
Choice USA chapters across the country are working to evaluate their own campus health centers for their competency and inclusiveness. Georgia Southern has made sure that its health center is LGBTQ inclusive and provides information about pregnancy options. Last year Cal State Long Beach worked to get rid of misleading information in its center and make it trans* inclusive. And chapters are continuing to change the way health services are delivered on their campuses.
Wrap up sentence here. The environment that a campus health center creates can have real consequences. A student can be forced to spend extra money, not be given the correct medical treatment, and feel shame. It is up to the students of a campus to address the problems that create these consequences.

If you would like to change the way your campus provides inclusive, accurate, and non-judgmental health services, email rortega@choiceusa.org.

Authored by Kendall Clement. She is the communications intern at Choice USA for the semester. She is a junior from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. 

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