Student Health Center changes STI results form

Sarah Wallace’s stomach somersaulted when she opened the results from her sexually transmitted infections test from the Portland State Student Health Center. The sheet in front of her listed a handful of STI’s next to several check marks.

After a phone call to the office and a closer look at the letter, the PSU senior breathed a sigh of relief when she realized that she did indeed have a clean bill of health.

Panicked calls such as Wallace’s prompted the PSU Student Health Center to change the format of their letter last month. They now write in bigger and bolder print, “The following tests were negative,” said Alise Quayle, interim nurse manager of the health center.

Furthermore, she said they inform the students that they will call the students regarding positive results, so an envelope in the mail from the center should indicate good news.

Several months ago, after an influx of phone calls, Quayle said the center changed the letter to read “normal” next to infections the student tested negatively for to alleviate the need for check marks.

She then had students calling and wanting to know what “normal syphilis” was. They realized that it would behoove them to keep the check marks, but enlarge the fact that the students tested negatively for the results.

“Any way you write it,” Quayle said of the difficulties of portraying such information, “suddenly they think, ‘what if?'”

Since the change last month, Quayle said they have not heard anything regarding the letters.

Despite the acrobatics the letter prompted her stomach to perform, Wallace reported having good experiences with the health center. “They’re looking out for us,” Wallace said. She recommends that students don’t freak out until they analyze the information in their letter.

As of last summer, the center no longer tests for HIV. They keep a pile of flyers with information on the Multnomah County Health Center, where they charge on a sliding scale and no one is turned away.

The reason for the referral is that the county offers pre- and post-counseling, with overnight facilities to accommodate those testing positive. The county can also perform the tests anonymously, so that if the student wishes to apply for health insurance in the future they are not hindered by the positive HIV test result in their file.

“It’s in the student’s best interest,” Quayle said.

Wynde Dyer, a graduate teaching assistant and avid supporter of the Student Health Center, said discontinuing the HIV test is a basic inconvenience.

“If I’m going to get shots, I want to get them all in one place,” she said, because she does not like needles. “They shouldn’t be diverting health care to Multnomah County.”

Dyer said she appreciates all the good work the Student Health Center does, but is just confused about why they stopped giving the HIV test. She said her only understanding was that the health center could not provide psychological counseling for the infection.

“My question is what is the [counseling] department there for?” she said. Dyer said it would help if the center were proactive about telling people that the center cannot test for HIV in advance.

“The assumption is that the health clinic is all-purpose,” she said.

Currently the Student Health Center offers a urine test for gonorrhea and chlamydia and a blood test for herpes type 2. They also have a syphilis test for those who request it.

“We recommend that sexually active women have a yearly pap smear that can test for early cervical cell changes that could be due to human papilloma virus,” Quayle said.

The STI tests are covered under students’ basic insurance, and a visit to see a doctor or nurse is free as long as the student has paid the health fee.