The ins and outs of student health

Condoms, painkillers and discreet meetings with a nurse are just some of things the Center for Student Health and Counseling at Portland State has to offer students. Free STI testing and reasonably priced treatments are a couple more.

The center’s cabal of six doctors and 12 nurses are also ready to service any problems a student might have beyond those of the sexual realm: from migraines to rashes to colds.

“If there’s something that needs a doctor’s attention, we’ll fit you in,” said Alise Quale, the interim nurse manager at the center and an RN.

The Health Center’s panoply of sexually transmitted infection testing, and treatment, covers everything from the relatively mundane, those with a remedy, to the rare and incurable.

“It used to be a probe, but now it’s just a urine test,” Quale said when speaking of the tests for Chlamydia and gonorrhea, the most common in Multnomah County.

In 2005, the county had 2644 reported cases of Chlamydia and 825 cases of gonorrhea. That means one out of 250 people had Chlamydia, and one out of 1000 had gonorrhea. The number of cases had increased slightly from the year before.

The center also tests for syphilis and herpes through blood tests. Chlamydia and herpes are the two infections the clinic sees the most, Quale said.

The Health Center suggests getting tested either when changing partners or every six months. This insures that an infection won’t spread, either through mishap or carelessness. The treatments for gonorrhea and Chlamydia, which are both curable, are cheap and available through the clinic’s pharmacy on campus. Gonorrhea’s cure is just $8.36 and the cure for Chlamydia is $25.68.

Herpes, a viral infection, cannot be cured. The clinic has medication for a breakout: 15 pills for $4.05 usually covers the symptoms.

One STI the center doesn’t test for is HIV. Patients are referred to Multnomah County, which charges on a sliding scale.

“Their test is anonymous,” Quale said. By law, if a patient tests positive, the clinic has to report it to the state and give the patients name. The amount of people living with AIDS or HIV is low in Portland. Only 116 people had AIDS in 2004 and 147 were HIV positive.

The clinic also has many forms of birth control and pregnancy tests. They carry the patch, ring, birth control pills, the Depo-Provera shot and Plan B. Plan B, otherwise known as the morning-after pill, is a form of emergency contraception that prevents a pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg. This form of contraception does not affect a pre-existing pregnancy, where an egg has already been fertilized.

To receive Plan B, one must see a nurse. It can be purchased at the center’s pharmacy for $9.60. Birth control pills at the pharmacy range from $7 to $18 and condoms are free in an inconspicuously placed basket in the lobby.

Pregnancy tests are “usually a urine test,” Quale said. If the patient is pregnant the clinic offers adoption resources as well as resources if the woman decides on abortion.

“We figure out what the woman wants and go from there,” Quale said. “But, we don’t do pre-natal care.”

For that, clinic refers people to the Oregon Health Plan. The first check-up is around nine weeks and the clinic helps the student get to there.

The center, located on Sixth and Hall across from the Ondine, has drop-in hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can also be made. All appointments and drop-ins are free of charge for students either taking more than nine credits or, for those below that threshold, who pay the extra fee to get the university’s coverage.