Local campuses could be doing more to educate, prevent and test for sexually transmitted infections in students.
In April 2014, the University of Calgary attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the most people tested for STIs within 24 hours at the same location. They tested over 500 students. In 2015, the University of Windsor held a similar event and tested 700 students. The following year Western University successfully broke the record by testing 812 students in one day for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Concordia University in Montreal also offers free regular STI testing on campus to make it more accessible and convenient for students. So why aren’t Edmonton schools doing more to prevent and test for STIs?
Testing for sexually transmitted infections cannot be done at any campus clinic in Edmonton and for some schools, sexual health services are non existent.
Both of Edmonton’s leading universities, MacEwan and the University of Alberta, do not provide testing for STIs in their health clinics. Neither school was willing to provide specific information on the number of students who have contracted an STI.
“[U of A’s] electronic medical record system is not able to provide specific data on STI rates that I can share with you,” said Kevin Friese, Dean of Students Health and Wellness when replying via email to The Nugget.
Friese also specified that the U of A’s Health Centre offers informational resources to students in need. They also have a comprehensive health education worker (CHEW) nurse on campus to provide information sessions and support to the student community.
A nurse from MacEwan’s clinic refused to comment, stating that the clinic is a family clinic, not solely for students use, and therefore statistics would not be accurate.
Norquest’s health centre does not provide STI testing despite the fact that many medical programs at Norquest require students be tested in order to advance in their program. The centre also does not record rates of students with STIs for privacy reasons.
Concordia University of Edmonton and King’s College do not have medical health clinics. Murna Haynick, counsellor at Concordia, said not many students access services on or off campus due to lack of information and services.
Where does NAIT stand?
Christine Bannerman, supervisor of Health Services at NAIT, says that because NAIT only has nurses employed at the centre, they’re not allowed to perform STI testing.
“We don’t have a medical practitioner to be able to do that type of testing. We need a practitioner that can do the testing and test the results,” said Bannerman.
Health Services wasn’t able to provide statistics regarding the number of NAIT students looking for information or tested for an STI. Any treatment outside of their clinic is not tracked in the system. NAIT students looking to be tested are referred to a Sexual Health Clinic in Edmonton.
“We hope in the future to have a practitioner and we will look into seeing patients for [STI testing] and any other health issues.”
To help fight this deficiency, NAIT is normalizing the language surrounding STIs by holding STI pop-ups where students will get information about the prevention of STIs.
“It’s a very normal thing to talk about and the more we present information on it, and the more education students have on it, the less it will become a problem,” said Rosie Colangelo, NAIT Student Programs assistant. “And it will be more about maintaining your sexual health. Not curing the STI, but more about preventing the STI.”
– Shawna Bannerman