Despite the availability of free, confidential sexually transmitted infection testing on campus, some report a struggle to find the information to access testing.
While Student Health and Duke Wellness both offer testing, students feel the information is hard to find, leading some students to forgo testing. For one student, searching Google yielded little information, aside from testing not being offered without insurance.
“I was looking on Student Health’s website, and I couldn’t really find any information about it, so I was confused by that. I sort of just forgot about that,” said the student, who requested to remain anonymous for personal confidentiality, who ended up not getting tested for STIs.
The student also reported feeling as if calling Student Health was unhelpful. They were scared off by friends’ reports of long wait times and dropped calls.
How can students get STI screenings?
Student Health allows virtual consultations for patients seeking STI testing. Students can also book screening appointments through Duke MyChart.
Does the student health fee or insurance cover STI screenings?
The Student Health website states that the required student health fee covers gynecological exams, but “does not include costs of associated lab tests, such as pap smear and STI screening.”
Student Health offers testing to insured students. Under the Affordable Care Act, STI testing is treated as preventative healthcare, so it is free with most insurance plans.
While Student Health has considered offering STI testing for free without insurance, it currently does not because all STI tests performed at Student Health are lab tests, rather than point-of-care tests, which are “diagnostic tests performed at or near the place where a specimen is collected.”
“Anything that we have to send to another lab, even if it’s Duke Labs, Student Health doesn’t bill for those, but the labs will bill insurance,” Director of Student Health John Vaughn said.
Is STI screening confidential?
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Under federal law, students who come into Student Health will not have details of their STI testing disclosed to parents, but Student Health acknowledges that there can be instances where parents may find a lab test order on an insurance form.
“If a student comes to student health for STI testing it’s absolutely confidential,” Vaughn said.
For those concerned about confidentiality and insurance, DuWell also offers free, confidential testing for students in collaboration with the Durham County Department of Public Health.
“You don’t have to make an appointment, you walk in, it’s ten minutes, it’s a full STI testing panel and they don’t bill for insurance,” Assistant Director of DuWell Lindsey Parker said.
For students who cannot attend those dates, DuWell can provide connections to other testing provided by DCoDPH. The department has regular walk-in clinics. Students who do not have a car are encouraged to call to get support organizing transportation.
Even if information is not always clear, Student Health and DuWell encourage all students to reach out through social media, MyChart or over the phone.
“We want you to come, we don’t want you to feel weird about it, and we want your feedback,” Parker said.