A Condomless Health Center

Director Lee-Barber discusses the health center’s improvements and shortcomings.

A Condomless Health Center

Director Lee-Barber discusses the health center’s improvements and shortcomings.

The Georgia State Student Health Center is located across the street from Student Health Promotion, offering free HIV and STI testing as well as supply free condoms and lube to Georgia State Students. Last year, the Health Center provided 232 HIV tests and 223 Chlamydia and Gonorrhea screenings. The Health Center also provides the lifesaving PrEP pill, a pill that protects HIV negative people when they come into contact with the HIV virus to keep their status negative. Students can also drop by to receive advice, volunteer work, and, of course, condoms while also providing drug and violence prevention education.

The Student Health Center is a great resource for students, if they know about it.

“It’s less accessible than it should be. It’s hard to get in, and even when you do, it isn’t always helpful,” Georgia State student Angela Bessho said.

The Health Center and their website lacks a staff directory or any news of changing of staff. Their website lacks information. The Signal attempted for two weeks to get in touch with the Health Center staff, and Lee-Barber says she realizes staff accessibility is a problem and the website needs work to better have students be able to contact whoever they wish. She mentions iCollege and how that has been the best way to educate students, such as enforcing freshman’s completion of a Drug and Safety module as well as a Sexual Violence module.

“With that many students on this many campuses, we are using technology to get the information out,” senior director of Psychological and Health Services Jill Lee-Barber said, referring to iCollege.

But some students aren’t convinced that the clinic’s efforts are enough to combat the problem.

Photo by Azam Lalani | The Signal

Adding Staff and Expanding

The Health Center has recently moved from working through a private organization to being publicly run. In this, they were able to keep electronic medical records that allowed them to schedule appointments over the phone and take walk-ins. The Health Center was able to offer extended hours Tuesdays and Wednesdays, closing at 7pm rather than the usual 5pm closing time, and unveil their new Mobile Health Clinic, which in the future will have STI/HIV testing available. Also, because of this switch, the health center was able to hire more nurses and staff that is better able to accommodate the large student body.

“The university is growing, and we needed to increase our staff, and so we did a feasibility study over some months to look at what is it costing us. In July 2016, we began hiring our own Georgia State employees and providers, which enabled us to double the number of physicians because we weren’t paying a management fee. It also enabled us to get much lower prices on labs for students and the prescription medications we keep for students,” Lee-Barber said.

Lee-Barber told The Signal about the changing of staff as the clinic is under a search for a new medical director and clinical director. Because of the changes, the Medical Director position remains currently vacant. Lee-Barber explains that, once the position is filled, the new director would send out more information, such as a welcome letter that could be accessed by students and bring more information to them.

She said the Health Center is committed to keeping students safe by many comprehensive outreach programs, such as their Healthy State Outreach Student Learning Outcome that reached 526 students on the Downtown campus and 826 on the Perimeter Campus. The Health Center has tables during school events and fairs such as the ones hosted in the Piedmont North Housing Parking Lot. The Health Center is always looking to be seen by students and displays ads and information on the TVs mounted around campus to gain attention, and is also working on developing a Student Advisory Board for Psychological and Health Services to better hear students’ concerns and work with students to better meet their needs.

But last semester, students raised another concern on the clinic’s practices.

While condoms are now freely put out, they had been held behind the counter since fall semester 2017, a measure that Lee-Barber apologized for.

Last semester, students would have to go up to the counter and ask for a certain number of condoms from the front desk.

Lee-Barber said apologizes for the absence of the bowl of condoms and saying that it was a complete mistake.

“The bowl is out now. If it wasn’t out then, that was a mistake. It should be out. It should be out consistently. That was a mistake and that’s been addressed,” Lee-Barber said.

Georgia State student Celine Lagrange said, when the condoms weren’t freely supplied, she resorted to unprotected sex.

“The health center was a safe place for a lot of us broke college students to get condoms. They are too expensive for me. When they stopped supplying them, I couldn’t use any. Before, I had no reason to have unprotected sex because they were so available, especially for me, because I live right next to the Health Center,” she said.

Lee-Barber said she understands that condom distribution is a problem for the Health Center and told The Signal of upcoming plans to make it easier. Lee-Barber said vending machines around campus could be one solution to make condoms and common medical supplies, such as Ibuprofen, easier to acquire for the students who don’t always make it across campus towards Georgia State Housing. Lee-Barber said she hopes the vending machine idea can soon become a reality.

Students can now grab condoms from the bowl in the Health Center or swing by Student Health Promotion in the Citizen Trust Building next door for a larger selection of male condoms, lube, dental dams, and female condoms with no questions asked.

This is part of a collection of new Feature Articles online. Read our first ever Feature Article published last week, Underage, Under Arrest.