Students have right to know about STDs on campus

    438
    print

    If you were given $483 to spend wisely, what would you use it for?Four hundred and eighty-three dollars may not seem like a substantial amount of money to many people, but to a college student, it can be an ample amount of change. Think of all the things the average college student could buy with that money: It could buy food for almost an entire year in TCU’s dining plan, compensate a car payment, be invested in a savings account or help with TCU’s pricey tuition.

    Or you could invest it in health insurance at TCU.

    The Health Center provides many services to students such as immunizations, allergy injections, laboratory tests, medications, sexually transmitted disease treatments and x-rays, but it still may not give you your money’s worth.

    What you can’t buy with the $483 is health awareness at the Brown-Lupton Health Center.

    TCU’s Health Center refuses to disclose statistical information on STDs on campus.

    Money doesn’t talk in this case.

    The problem here exists simply out of the Health Center’s refusal to disclose statistical information on STDs: If students are not aware of what STDs they face at TCU, how can the Health Center expect students to be informed and practice health awareness?

    Marilyn Hallam, assistant to the director of health services, said she sees absolutely no problem with withholding the information on STDs from the student body.

    Hallam’s reason is simple: confidentiality.

    Although the Health Center will not disclose statistics to students, the center is required to report to the state.

    “There are no statistics that are directly available to students,” Hallam said. “We are required by law to report to the state’s public health department, so if a student wants to find that information, they can contact them.”

    Hallam also said the Health Center does not maintain the information needed to distribute statistics.

    “We keep the numbers on how many students were tested for STDs, but it’s not available to students,” Hallam said.

    Greg Bateson, health education coordinator at the University of Texas in Arlington, said – just like TCU – UTA does not release statistics to the student body.

    “We don’t do reporting either because of HIPAA regulations,” Bateson said.

    Bateson said STDs are not the only kind of data that are kept confidential.

    “We typically don’t give out any statistics, not even on how many students caught ‘pink eye’ last year,” Bateson said.

    Bateson said students can contact the American College Health Association for data.

    The ACHA is an institution that offers services to members of the association to promote the health of college campus nationwide.

    TCU’s affiliation with the ACHA is like that of most universities.

    Hallam said many institutions and colleges become members of ACHA to participate in programs, use resources and, in some cases, nurses and practitioners become accredited through ACHA.

    According to the ACHA Web site, universities participated in a national college health assessment. The ACHA national health assessment is a national research program that collects data about students’ health – including sexual health.

    Although the study is confidential, statistics are available to the public.

    A total of 50 colleges participated in the study last fall, more than doubling the participation rate from fall 2000. The assessment’s survey questions concentrate on more than STD data, but questions geared toward sexual health are incorporated into the questionnaire.

    Why do institutions participate in such studies but not release the information to those who pay for health care at those very institutions?

    According to the Health Center Web site, “The philosophy of the Brown-Lupton Health Center is to promote, protect, maintain and restore the student’s physical and mental health.” All services are confidential.

    I cannot foresee the benefits of withholding statistics on STDs from the student body.

    How is withholding statistical information violating anyone’s privacy?

    If the Health Center wishes to maintain its philosophy, wouldn’t that include the promotion of accessible information on what TCU’s student body faces?

    Students need a clear yet objective amount of data so they become informed about what STDs are prevalent in their environment.

    If students knew what kind of STDs and how many students were affected by STDs, then we could do something about it.

    The obvious solution would be to promote safe sex. But regardless of how much the Health Center says to the student body about the practice of safe sex, people still need to know how to not only prevent STDs, but how to deal with the situation.

    Without that knowledge, how can students educate and protect themselves?

    Patricia Fabiano, a participant in the ACHA assessment from Western Washington University, said in a testimonial on the ACHA Web site she has found the data vital in analyzing the student body.

    “Each year, I do a presentation to the parents of new students, and I show the parents the data that shows the students use them as a source of health information, and more so, believe them as a source of that information. They are always encouraged by this data …” Fabiano said in her testimonial.

    Roxanna Latifi is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Fort Worth.