If you are having sex, it’s time to consider getting tested for sexually transmitted infections. It’s a perfectly normal part of health care designed to keep you safe and healthy.
If you have considered getting tested but still have questions, you are not alone. University Health Center medical experts answer these frequently asked questions from college students:
How common are STIs?
They’re more common than you may think. One in two people will contract an STI by age 25, according to the American Sexual Health Association. Chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and human papillomavirus (HPV) are more prevalent among college-aged people. Many of these are on the rise in the U.S., especially among younger people.
How can I get an STI?
You can get an STI when you have sexual contact with an infected person. This includes manual, genital, anal and oral sex (both receiving and giving).
How do I know if I have an STI?
Most STIs have no symptoms, so getting tested regularly is the best way to know. If you experience STI symptoms, this may include:
- Unexplained abdominal/pelvic or testicular pain
- Genital discharge
- Burning urination
- Genital rash, itching or sores
Who should get tested?
Anyone sexually active should get tested annually for common STIs and HIV. You should also get tested if you are showing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above.
Which STIs should I get tested for?
STIs are not like allergies; you can’t get a massive test for all STIs. These tests are specific to each infection. Talk to your health care provider about which STI tests you need. Certain STIs are more common than others, so your provider may suggest you get tested regularly for them.
Remember to be honest and open with your provider about your sexual activity, including what type of sexual contact you are participating in, as this can determine where and how you should be tested. Your provider is here to help, not judge you. What you share will help your provider choose the most appropriate tests for your circumstances so that your testing will not cost more than necessary. Your risk factors will determine exactly which tests are most important for you.
How can I get tested for STIs and/or HIV at the University Health Center?
Step 1: Call the University Health Center at 402.472.5000 and follow the options to speak to a nurse. Tell the nurse that you’d like to get tested. The nurse line is available Monday through Friday from 8:20 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.
Step 2: The nurse will ask you a few questions and put in an order for your testing at our laboratory.
Step 3: Although appointments are required for most health center services due to COVID-19, lab tests are an exception to this rule. Walk in at your convenience and check in at the health center front desk Monday through Friday between 8:20 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. Tell the greeter and registration staff that you’re checking in “for lab only.” Our staff will get you checked in and direct you to the lab, where you will complete your testing.
Step 4: Nursing staff will call you in a few business days with results and schedule follow-up as needed. Results will also be available in your One Chart | Patient portal in about two to three business days.
Who will know I got tested at the health center?
All lab services and clinic medical records are strictly confidential. This information is kept between you and your doctor. However, there are a few things you should know:
- Minors (students 18 and younger) do not need parental consent for STI testing or treatment. STI testing and treatment information will not be shared with parents of minors without the minor’s permission.
- If you use health insurance to get tested, consider who else has access to that information (like a parent or partner if you share health insurance). If you do not want to submit your charge to insurance, please tell the medical receptionist at check-in.
- Positive results for some STIs, like HIV or syphilis, may be shared with state or city health departments for tracking purposes, but there are laws preventing health departments from sharing your test results with your family, friends or employer.
If you have further questions or concerns, talk to your provider.
How much does it cost?
Doctor-ordered chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV tests are offered at no additional cost to students who pay student fees. Other tests will have a charge, which can be submitted to insurance or paid out of pocket at a discounted rate. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. For pricing information, call the health center at 402.472.5000 and press the Billing and Insurance option.
What if I test positive?
First, remember to breathe. The side effects and health outcomes of many STIs can be treated, and many STIs are curable. Different treatment methods are used for different STIs. For some STIs, there are several treatment options. Your provider will tell you more about this after your test.
How do I tell my partner(s) I have an STI?
Some conversations seem really hard to have. Telling someone you have an STI may be one of them. But it’s not just about you; your partner needs to know so he or she can get tested and treated if necessary.
Everyone gets an STI from a person. Part of stopping the spread of STIs is open communication, so talk to your partner(s). This is never an easy conversation, but it’s an important one to have. Many couples report this conversation actually brings them closer together.
Make a plan. As soon as you’re ready, bring it up with your partner(s). You could talk to someone else about it first and practice what you’re going to say. You could also journal about it or practice speaking in a mirror. You could even write your partner(s) a letter. The main point is to communicate. Be there for them the way you hope they would be there for you.
Testing positive and talking to your partner(s) about having an STI may feel overwhelming. Remember that CAPS is a resource for you if you need it. Visit their website for more information.
I’m not sure I’m ready to get tested. What should I do?
If you aren’t ready to get tested, that’s OK. In the meantime, stay open and honest with your health care provider and reach out to them if you have any questions.