For all sexually active adults, regular screenings for sexually-transmitted infections are an important part of maintaining health, and are typically covered through insurance as part of health screenings. When an individual may need more frequent testing, due to risk categories, exposure, development of symptoms, or other identified medical factors, the cost and lack of convenience of testing can become prohibitive. This is a barrier that USC’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is working to remove through partnership with the USC Student Health Center (SHC).
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 22% of the HIV infection cases diagnosed in 2014 involved individuals ages 13–24. Moreover, all individuals are recommended to be tested at least once in their life. Nationally, sixteen percent of the U.S. population has undergone screening for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS; but at USC, according to SHC, only seven percent of the student body has undergone screening.
For many at USC, getting tested at SHC is costly, particularly if your insurance is not accepted or does not cover frequent sexual health testing. For example, students on state-based insurance plans like Medi-CAL must pay out of pocket each time they are tested. In turn, many students prefer to go off-campus in order to get tested for free at places like the LGBT Center in West Hollywood. These financial and transportation barriers make it difficult for many students to be adequately tested.
In an effort to remove any financial or transportation barriers that deter screening, USG is proud to partner with the USC Student Health Center to provide a grant to cover the out-of-pocket costs for HIV testing. The HIV testing will be provided on campus by USC Student Health at both Engemann and Eric Cohen student health centers, and is available to undergraduate and graduate students.
The program expansion has the potential to particularly improve the health of students in high-risk categories and those on pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP; individuals in these populations are required to undergo more frequent HIV testing, which is not always covered by insurance.
“We believe STI and HIV testing are primary health resources that should be easily accessible to all students,” says Trenton Stone, the undergraduate student body president. “This is an effective way to keep students healthy, stop the spread of disease, and reduce negative stigmas that exist around both sexual activity and sexually-related diseases.”
The student government-led initiative will be open to all USC undergraduate and graduate students on all insurance plans. On the health care side, doctors at USC Student Health see this as a way to promote testing access and STI awareness among sexually active young adults.
“We want to support any student that comes to us with questions and worries about their health matters,” says Co-Medical Director Dr. Mildred Wenger, “For college populations, when it comes to safe sex and healthy relationships, providing care encompasses listening to the patient, addressing needs with both professionalism and compassion, and ensuring that appropriate follow-up care takes place. Removing financial barriers to testing really amounts to expanding access to medically necessary care—something all of us in clinical care know is a part of creating an ongoing, trusting relationship between providers and patients.”
Students who would like to schedule an HIV test or other STI screening can schedule an appointment with USC Student Health as usual on the MySHR portal or at (213) 740-WELL.
# # #
USG Student Body President
USG Senior Director of Communications