Students criticize lack of sexual health care

While Student Health Services provides a number of options for sexual health care, some students said they are disappointed with the current services.

Student complaints include the inability to see a gynecologist at SHS and receive long-term contraceptive prescriptions. However, SHS offers contraceptives on a short-term basis and an emergency contraceptive, commonly known as the “morning after pill,” which allows females to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after intercourse.

Officials said sexual healthcare is not SHS’ primary focus.

“Our goal is to make you well enough to go back to classes, we have more of a focused function,” said Isabel Goldenberg, director of Student Health Services. “We do not do any type of routine care. We are here to treat students for sickness or accidents.”

Students seeking an appointment with a gynecologist must go through the gynecology department of the GW Medical Center as much as a month in advance.

“Gynecology is an important part of women’s health care,” said Gloria Feldt, national president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Women need regular pap smears by the time they reach college age to protect against early signs of cancer.”

Several students said they have had difficulties getting oral contraceptives from the center.

“They didn’t have enough birth control pills to give me a full supply, but when they finally got more I was told that I needed to have another appointment in order to get a refill,” said a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. “I just can’t afford to pay for two appointments on my own in one month.”

Students can find many gynecological services at locations throughout D.C., such as Planned Parenthood.

“Usually we can see patients very quickly, and we do emergency contraception on a walk-in basis,” said Virginia Martin, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for external affairs. “All our services are on a sliding fee scale, which means contraception cost is based on individual income. We will help you figure out what you can pay.”

Student Association Executive Vice President Eric Daleo said he and SA President Kris Hart met with student leaders last year to discuss options for sexual health on campus. In November, Senate members assessed that only eight residence halls had condom dispensers, all of which were either not stocked, defective or damaged.

“Students didn’t know about the dispenser boxes in residence halls,” Daleo said. “No one knew what they were there for or who put them there.”

In December the Student Association passed a resolution urging administrators to make sexual health information and supplies more accessible. However, in January, the Senate tabled legislation ensuring condom dispensers in all residence halls and free monthly STD screenings.

Executive Director of the Out Crowd Graham Murphy said last year his organization gave the SA an information sheet asking them to consider safe sex options other than condoms including lubrication, latex gloves and dental dams.

“I really wish someone would work on it,” Murphy said. “We still don’t have condoms on campus, and DC has the highest HIV rate in the country.”

Emily Goodstein, president of GW Voices for Choices, said the group works with Planned Parenthood to give students condoms attached to cards with the address of the local Planned Parenthood facility. The organization also hands out dental dams.

“Condoms are good because they are cheap and most people are familiar with them as a kind of contraception,” Goodstein said.

Voices for Choices is also working to implement a program to encourage GW students to get a prescription for the Morning After Pill from their gynecologist, so that they can have the pills on hand if needed, Goodstein said.

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