Lack of STD tests concerns students

by Stephanie Bradbury / Beacon Staff • January 26, 2012

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A map of local STD testing clinics
A map of local STD testing clinics

Emerson is one of the only colleges in Boston that does not offer  students screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

According to Jane Powers, director of the Center for Health and Wellness, Emerson students can receive an STD test only when they exhibit symptoms  and a clinical evaluation is completed. However, if the patient doesn’t show any obvious symptoms, they are sent off campus for screening.

Screenings, which the college does not offer, occurs when no clinical exam has been taken or symptoms are present, but a student would like to take a test.

According to Powers, students at Emerson looking to be screened are referred to Fenway Community Health Center, which has four locations in the Boston area — three in Fenway, and one, The Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center, located at 130 Boylston St., next to the Emerson campus.  

The class of 2015 President Ben Halls echoed these concerns at the Jan. 17 Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. During an open discussion about goals for the semester, the Student Government Association official voiced that his main goal will be to get STD screening at Emerson. Halls said he believes the availability of screening on campus is a priority. 

“It’s a big thing that can be done for campus and is very achievable. It could really improve everyone’s health,” Halls said in an interview with the Beacon. “I don’t think it matters what solution there is as long as there is one.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 15-24 represent 25 percent of the sexually active population. This age bracket contracts nearly half of all STDs. 

Other schools in Boston such as Suffolk University, Boston University, Northeastern University, Boston College, Harvard University, Emmanuel College, and the University of Massachusetts Boston all offer on-campus screenings and testing by appointment. 

Lauren Sewell, director of the health center and a nurse practitioner at Emmanuel College said she is surprised that Emerson does not offer screenings. 

“I think all colleges in Boston should offer testing to their students. It’s an important part of health on college campuses,” Sewell said. 

Halls said he wants to begin an initiative at Emerson by opening up a dialogue with the Center for Health and Wellness. 

Ian Stewart, a freshman theatre studies major, said he thinks the school should offer testing.

“Students should know they can get tested here and they know the school is looking out for them,” he said. 

Kailey Godoy, a junior visual and media arts major, agreed and said she found Emerson’s STD policy upsetting and believes it is important that the school offer the screening. 

Powers said she spoke with former SGA President Jeffrey Rizzi last semester about setting up a meeting with the joint session to discuss student concerns regarding STD testing and screening. However, she has not yet been approached by Halls or Tau Zaman, the current SGA president. 

“I would welcome opening a dialogue to learn of student needs and concerns with our current STD testing practices and local resources,” Powers said.