Student Council announces a free STI testing event at the end of semester

Safety and Wellness Committee says that 70 free tests will be offered

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Getting testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, the two most common STIs for college students, costs $30 at the Elson Student Health Center.

Navya Annapareddy | Cavalier Daily

Student Council will hold a free STI testing event for students at the end of the fall semester. The event is the product of one of the Safety and Wellness Committee’s initiatives, which also include initiatives to create a Student Police Advisory Board and to increase mental health services at the University.

John Krause-Steinrauf, a second-year College student and chair of the Safety and Wellness Committee, said Student Council began partnering with the LGBTQ Center and the multicultural students center to offer free STI testing for students a couple years ago.

“In addition to offering free STI testing, we also wanted to investigate the possibility of offering free STI testing through Student Health,” Krause-Steinrauf said. “In past years we have held the event in the fall semester and this year we're hoping to hold it in both the fall and spring semesters so that more students can get tested and also learn more about STIs.”

Although being able to offer free STI testing is a large step towards their goal, Krause-Steinrauf said the Committee is only able to offer 70 tests each semester, with $1,400 in funding from Student Council allocated in the 2019-20 budget that passed less than two weeks ago. The Safety and Wellness committee is partnering with the LGBTQ center and the Multicultural Student Center — and hopes to partner with Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education — for the event. 

According to Krause-Steinrauf, making the leap to give all students access to free STI testing beyond the 70 per semester is a challenging obstacle. Currently, getting testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, the two most common STIs for college students, costs $30 at the Elson Student Health Center.

“Our original hope was to figure out something to make it free so that students could easily access it,” Krause-Steinrauf said. “A couple concerns of Student Health raised is that number one — the lab tests themselves are not analyzed at Student Health. Instead they’re analyzed at the UVA Health System laboratory, so they don't have control over the costs of them — so someone ultimately has to pay that bill.”

A date has not been set for the STI testing event.

In addition to advocating for students’ sexual health, the Safety and Wellness committee is working to further student conversation and awareness about mental health and giving students the ability to address their mental health with proper and affordable resources.

“We are working on better publicizing mental health resources that are available on Grounds, and also looking into how to address the root causes of mental illness as well as talking with Student Health about how we can make treatment for mental illness more affordable, especially because it's very expensive to go to have private counseling sessions,” Krause-Steinrauf said.  “Oftentimes there's a pretty hefty copay.”

The Safety and Wellness committee has also been working to create a new Student Police Advisory Board to address any tensions between students and the University Police Department. The Safety and Wellness committee is currently putting together a Selections Committee that will be in charge of assembling the board. 

The Student Police Advisory Board was created in fall 2018 under the leadership of former Student Council president Alex Cintron and current third-year College student Katie Kirk. The Police Advisory Board has been tasked by Student Council with facilitating communication between the University community and the University Police Department and to advise the department on student concerns. 

According to the Student Council Website, staff such as Gloria Graham, asst. vice president of safety and security, Jamie Leonard, director of the Office of Health Promotion, and Dirron Allen, asst. dean of students and director of student engagement, are playing an active role in making the board a reality.

New University Police Chief Tim Longo says he will be working with the advisory board as well. Longo began his tenure as chief of UPD on Oct. 1, replacing Tommye Sutton, who resigned from the position. Sutton previously described his plan to improve the relationship between UPD and the student body.

“The University Police Department is a critical partner to the Student/Police Advisory Board,” Longo said. “I envision that not only will I be engaged with the board on issues impacting our University Community, it is my expectation that the broader department will be engaged as well. I see this as an opportunity to share our collective knowledge and to learn from those who will serve on the board.”

UPD has faced criticism from students and community members in the past for its lack of response to the white supremacist demonstrations of Aug. 11, 2017 near the Rotunda, as documented in an independent review by Tim Heaphy, a former U.S. Attorney and current University Counsel. UPD was also criticized by community members in August 2018 for a large massing of police personnel near the Academical Village during a U.Va. Students United rally at Brooks Hall. 

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