Washington, D.C. Offering Free STD Testing To All High School Students

Half of Washington, D.C.’s cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are among adolescents, so it’s a good thing the city has expanded a pilot program that offers free STD testing to high school students.

Last year, when the program launched with STD testing offered in eight schools, about 3,000 students participated and 13 percent of them tested positive for an STD, mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia. This year, all high school students will have the opportunity to participate in the program. They will attend a lecture and Q&A session about STDs. Then 15 to 20 of them at a time will be given paper bags containing urine collection cups and will be sent into bathroom stalls. Once students are in the stalls, they will decide whether or not they want to provide a urine sample. They’ll then return the paper bags with the container inside, either filled or not, so others won’t know whether they’ve given a sample. Students will then be given a password to use when they call in a week later to find out the tests’ results and receive treatment, if necessary. This isn’t the first city to offer STD testing to students without parental consent. Baltimore launched a program in 2002, and Port Chester High School in New York offers free STD and pregnancy testing to students.

The fact that 13 percent of the D.C. high school students tested last year from just eight schools had STDs shocks me, and testing programs like this seem as though they will help reduce the number of infections. Hopefully, students will see this as their chance to take responsibility for their actions, rather than relying on their parents to schedule doctor visits, and continue the practice when they’re on their own after graduation. Part of the reason I think people hate getting tested for STDs — or even going to the doctor, for that matter — is because they associate it with bad times, like being sick or having a rash down there. If you only go to the doctor or get tested when you think there’s a problem, you’ll dread going every time. But if you make a habit of it, and practice safe sex, the doctor won’t seem so scary after all. [Washington Post, Medical News Today]