Executive Content Editor
On Oct. 10, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC) hosted their first monthly STI Screen-a-Thon event. In collaboration with UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA) and the Isla Vista Community Service District (IVCSD), this monthly event seeks to provide a safe space for students and community members for confidential screenings. Hosted at the Isla Vista (I.V.) Community Center, the SBNC mobile testing truck was outside in the parking lot, already seeing students by mid-afternoon. Nurses inside the community center were ready to check in students and community members that were interested in not just STI testing, but also family planning/birth control consultations and information about sexual health and safety. The event will be held monthly through February 2024.
As promoted on EVPLA’s Instagram, all services at the event were “covered by Family PACT, the same state funding agreement that Planned Parenthood utilizes.” Family PACT, or Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment, provides family planning services for California residents. Most importantly, with regards to this event, it covers various birth control methods and STI testing, so students won’t have to worry about the cost of these consultations and testing.
Dr. Susan Lawton sat down with The Bottom Line to discuss the importance of this event and her hopes for the student community. She explained that “sexually transmitted infections are common, but they don’t always cause symptoms. If we don’t screen for them, we may not find them and then we may not be able to treat them.” The effects can be long-lasting, especially for women that may look to have children in the future. Thus, this event seeks to give students the opportunity to get tested as if it were part of their daily routine.
By having the event open to the public, SBNC emphasizes the importance of taking away a stigma against getting tested for STIs. “People are not asking to be infected by an STI,” Dr. Lawton notes, “so we should be empowering people to come just like going to get your teeth cleaned. You should have your sexual organs checked to make sure there’s nothing going on.”
This was not the first STI Screen-a-Thon event hosted by SBNC. The first event like this was hosted in fall of 2019 at Santa Barbara City College. The idea was to promote STI testing and prompting conversation about sexual health and safety amongst college students. The Women’s Health Interactive reports on a study conducted in 2019 that found that out of students aged 18-19, “over two-thirds of them (70 percent of males, 71 percent of females) reported sexual experience during college.” Dr. Lawton pointed out that many college students tend to be sexually active, which is a normal part of life. By having these Screen-a-Thon events, students are offered a safe space in their college community to discuss their sexual health and safety.
With the COVID-19 pandemic starting to phase out, SBNC was able to bring back this event with the help of UCSB EVPLA. Both with the privacy of the mobile unit and areas partitioned off in the I.V. Community Center, students have the opportunity to drop by for a consultation and/or a test at their discretion. Because the event is monthly, with future hopes of it becoming bi-monthly, students will have greater access to these offered resources.
“There should be no stigma against screening for STIs,” Dr. Lawton reminds students. Being sexually active or not in college should not be a stigmatized conversation. At the end of the day, she advises students to “take good care of themselves. Which means don’t be ashamed of your activities. If you’re sexually active, just be careful. Come to us, get on something to help [prevent unwanted pregnancies], use condoms, and get tested.”
The next event will occur on Dec. 8 at the I.V. Community Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is open to all students and community members.