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DeSTIgma event to offer free STI tests

Illustrated by Esther Tang

By Sammi Johnson     2/20/19 12:35am

The Student Association is hosting the university’s first Sexually Transmitted Infection testing party, which will offer free STI testing, according to Hannah Kim, the Student Health Services and Accessibility Committee co-chair. 

The event, “DeStigma: destress and get that test!” will occur in the Rice Memorial Central Quad Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. 

Bharathi Selvan, committee co-chair, said the Harris Health Mobile Clinic is providing the tests for free and the Student Health Services and Accessibility Committee is hoping to test about 60 students, although there is no limit to how many students can be tested. Students only need to bring their Rice ID in order to get tested. 

According to Kim, the committee saw a need for the event after last year’s Sexual Healthcare Accessibility Task Force found that nearly 70 percent of the campus was sexually active but only 37 percent had ever been tested for an STI. They also found that financial inaccessibility was one of the primary reasons students said prevented them from getting tested. 

“It’s important that people know that they can get tested and making that more accessible, because currently it’s really hard to find accessible STI testing by the Student Health Center,” Selvan said. “In terms of the resources, we think it’s important that people know that we’re not just focusing on STI testing but also safe sex; if people have information and [exposure], then we believe that people can have more positive conversations about sex.”

The mobile clinic will collect both urine and blood samples; the tests will cover syphilis, HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and Hepatitis C. Selvan, a junior at Hanszen College, said the clinic can perform rapid testing for some of the STIs, but for others the samples will be sent off to a lab and the students will be contacted later. 

According to Kim, the event will also feature food, games and booths sponsored by different organizations across campus. 

“We’re trying to do some sort of a twist on pin the tail on the donkey, like pin the organ on the person, so just stuff like that where it’s making fun of things that are more taboo,” Eli Mensing, the Baker College senator, said. “At a lot of our meetings, some of the people have been spending a lot of time trying to find gag gifts, like penis lollipops and stuff like that, but those are just some examples of things that will be going on at the booths.” 

Kim said the committee budgeted about $800 to cover food, prizes and games for the event. 

“I think it decreases the stigma of getting STI tested, and I think a lot of people are afraid because they have a negative association with getting tested for a disease,” Kim, a junior at Brown College, said. “I think this puts a positive spin on it and lets people know it’s just like a general checkup, it’s just a general physical wellbeing thing, so it destigmatizes that aspect of it.” 

Mensing said that because Rice students come from different states with different kinds of sexual education, some students may not be aware of all the resources available to them. He also said that this event was created to promote the idea that it is normal and responsible for students to get STI tested. 

“In college, people have a lot more freedom hooking up with people, and so people definitely explore different things they normally wouldn’t,” Mensing said. “We as a university need to encourage that yes, it is very fun to go home with someone, but there’s also the side that you need to be responsible and stay healthy too.” 

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