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Financial crisis forces fee on Student Health STI testing

Sexually transmitted infection test results that were previously free for students will now come with a fee, as a result of the recession.
Sexually transmitted infection test results that were previously free for students will now come with a fee, as a result of the recession.

Duke students must now pay for University-provided sexually transmitted infection testing that was free until this month. 

Student Health has started charging students for the results of their sexually transmitted disease tests because of a change in contract with the Duke University Medical Center lab that previously interpreted the tests at a deep discount, said Executive Director of Student Health Dr. Bill Purdy.

The lab, which processes all the lab work for the Duke clinics and hospital, had to raise its fees for test interpretation as a result of the financial crisis, Purdy said. Rapid tests for strep, mononucleosis and pregnancy, complete blood count tests, urinalysis and wet prep for vaginal infections are still covered under the student health fee, Purdy noted. Last year, the student health fee was about $568 per student.

“We didn’t want to do it, but were forced to do it because of the [financial] situation,” Purdy said.

As of now, Purdy said students will have to pay 20 percent of the tests’ cost and insurance will cover the rest. Purdy noted that the new prices have not yet been finalized because each insurance company has its own deal with the University.

Student Health announced the change June 11 on its website, which is part of the Student Affairs site. Officials did not send a formal announcement to students.

Because Student Health supports the Know Your Status campaign, which offers students free HIV testing in the Bryan Center throughout the academic year, Purdy said Student Health routinely ran additional tests for other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, for free.

Now that testing is no longer free, some students have said they are concerned about how charging for STD testing will affect students’ motivation to get tested.

“Duke is always talking about how students should be sexually responsible,” said Chantel Morey, rising junior and member of Know Your Status. “[The new price] will be detrimental to the Duke community.”

Morey said the affordability of the labs will deter students from getting tested, as was the case for a rising junior who wished to remain anonymous to preserve his privacy.

Motivated by campaigns on campus to be sexually responsible, the junior said he went to Student Health to get a routine checkup with an STD screening, but he decided not to send the tests to the lab and get the results because it was too much money. He said he would have had to pay roughly $200.

Although Purdy said the test results “can be very expensive,” he said he thought this student might have been told the total cost of the labs, not the price he would have had to pay after insurance.

Students have other options to get STD test results outside of Student Health, Purdy said. Purdy is working on “a special arrangement” with the Durham County Health Department, but said it is too early to say what a deal might look like. He added that Planned Parenthood charges for STD tests on a sliding scale.

The junior said personnel at Student Health did refer him to a few local health clinics that would be able to provide the routine STD tests for free, but ultimately, he did not seek the results of his tests.

“Students are not going to want to get tested anymore if they have to leave campus,” the junior said, adding that Student Health should have sent a notification to the students before they began charging for test results.

Still, Purdy does not expect the change to have a significantly negative impact due to data that shows students are sexually responsible.

“Luckily, we have had the rate of positive STD tests to be very low,” Purdy said. “I don’t want students to hear that and think, ‘We don’t need to get tested or practice safe sex,’ but it seems like students are doing a good job of being sexually protected.”


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