Free STI testing offered at Augie


Viminda Shafer and junior Catherine Priebe, who planned the whole event, talk about STI testing on Jan. 18.

Olivia Doak

On Friday, Jan. 18 free and confidential STI testing was offered to students in the Brunner Theater Center.
Free tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV were provided. And for college students, getting tested regularly is especially important because of their high susceptibility to STIs.
“1 in 2 people age 20-25 that are sexually active will get an STI,” leader of the event, Catherine Priebe, junior, said. “Anyone who is sexually active should be getting tested.”
However, for many students, getting tested can be scary and intimidating.
“People don’t want to know if they have an STI,” Brittany Tommila, senior and student volunteer at the event  Aguilar said. “And they don’t want people to know that they’re getting tested.”
Many people are apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect when they get tested. At this event, and for most STI tests, the nurses required a simple blood or urine sample.
Another main cause of fear surrounding STIs is a simple lack of information about what they are and their severity. For example, many people don’t realize that the majority of STIs are both curable and manageable.
“There’s a stigma attached to it,” Priebe said. “But I’m hopeful that normalizing the conversation around sex, sexual health, sex education and seeking resources helps eliminate the stigma.”
For the event, Augustana’s +IMPACT club and public health program partnered with The Project of the Quad Cities, a nonprofit organization that provides free STI testing and other services in the area.
Viminda Shafer is the Program Coordinator for the organization and helped run the event.
Shafer said the key to eliminating the stigma around STIs is conversation: “The more people who share their story, the more education we have, the more we make it mainstream the less stigma there will be,” Shafer said.
“I think it should be considered a routine appointment – like a yearly physical or going to the dentist,” Priebe said. “And I think it’s moving in that direction and more conversations about sex positivity are happening.”
However, we still have a long way to go, and young people are especially at risk. “Nearly half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases that are diagnosed each year are in people ages 15-24,” Shafer said. “And that statistic has tripled in the last five years due to a lack of testing and treatment.”
To combat these numbers, there are organizations like The Project and groups like +IMPACT popping up in cities and schools. The goal is to increase awareness and provide resources and information for people.
“You should be knowing what’s going on with your body,” Priebe said. “It’s as much to do with caring about your own health and body as it is caring about the bodies and health of the people you have sexual relations with.”
“STIs do not discriminate. They don’t care about your race, your gender, your sexual preference, how much money you have, everyone is equally at risk,” Shafer said. “It is your responsibility to know what your status is so that you avoid adding to the statistic.”
Photo Featured: Viminda Shafer and junior Catherine Priebe, who planned the whole event, talk about STI testing on Jan. 18. Photo by Christina Rossetti.