Tuesday will be the first time the Purdue University Student Health Center sponsors free gonorrhea and chlamydia tests.
Eight Big Ten schools regularly provide these tests for free or cheaper than PUSH's standard rate for the same tests.
Almost all schools in the Big Ten, Purdue included, have a "student health fee" added to tuition. However, only the Universities of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin consider this amount sufficient to cover most student medical expenses, including STD testing. The Ohio State University student wellness center periodically offers free chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. Northwestern University Health Service offers free gonorrhea tests for males. Indiana University and Pennsylvania State University provide these services for less than the $58 it would normally cost a student at PUSH.
"We understand health care is expensive and we want to offer these services when we can," said Katie Wilkinson, sexual health education coordinator at PUSH.
This is the first time the student health center has offered free testing for any STDs besides HIV. Dr. Sarah Sayger, medical director of PUSH, said they would like to provide more free services, but many times cannot because of budget constraints.
"As far as I know, it's like everything else: resources," said Sayger.
Lack of resources were also a problem in 2009 when PUSH, after providing free HIV testing for 11 years, revoked this service. According to Sayger, this is because the Indiana Department of Health "wanted to redirect and focus differently on HIV," subsequently pulling their funding for the initiative.
In comparison, 73 percent of Big Ten schools have obtained the resources for some form of free STD testing. Specifically referring to free gonorrhea and chlamydia tests, five Big Ten schools provide on a regular basis exactly what PUSH is providing for one day.
The event is possible because colleagues at IUPUI offered to provide, at no charge, the vaginal swabs, urine sample cups and lab processing costs, Wilkinson said. The specimens will be sent to Indianapolis for processing conducted by IUPUI's labs. PUSH will supply the staffing hours for specimen collection.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea should pose a legitimate concern for sexually active Purdue students. According to Sayger, gonorrhea and chlamydia are responsible for the second-most number of visits to PUSH for STD testing and treatment.
Students who are interested should call the student wellness office and make an appointment by 5 p.m. today.