Controversial STD bill might mean little change at UNL

By Jake Bockoven, NewsNetNebraska

A controversial STD treatment bill that got first round approval in the legislature may not change one thing at the University Health Center.

The bill would allow someone to get a prescription to the partner of a person with gonorrhea or syphilis, without that person having to have an examination. The partner would still have to be named in order to receive the prescription and medication.

Terry Thomas, a nurse practitioner at UNL who is involved with the state nurse practitioner legislation, said even if the bill is passed she won’t write out prescriptions without an examination.

“I agree with the intent of the bill, but I would not do it,” Thomas said. ”It’s a liability. We wouldn’t know their background health issues, allergies, or other medications.”

UNL Health Center

UNL Health Center

Thomas said writing out a prescription without checking those issues out would be considered sloppy practice and the liability would fall directly on the practitioner, and not their place of employment. So if a medical provider at the University Health Center did give out medicine without examining a person and something went wrong, the medical provider would make the decision and risk being sued, not the Health Center.

One thing lawmakers and medical providers don’t have to worry about when considering this bill is anyone manipulating the system, Thomas said.  The antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea and syphilis have no street value and it cannot be used or made into another drug.

The STD treatment bill was proposed by Senator Sara Howard of Omaha, where infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis are much more common than in Lincoln and on UNL’s campus. Thomas said she has only had three cases of gonorrhea in the last 4 years and has not diagnosed anyone with syphilis in the five years she has been at the Health Center.

According to the UNL-specific results of the 2012 National College Health Assessment, only .2% of UNL students had gonorrhea. The actual numbers of students on campus with STI’s is likely higher than reported, as some people may not know they have the infection.

Thomas said women especially don’t see the symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia until the very late stages, and some people are just afraid to go get tested.

Debate on the bill making prescriptions more available raged in the legislature from March 25th to March 27th. Although the bill eventually easily passed the first round of debate 32-3, there was a lot of arguing between state senators. Senator Mark Christensen drew fire from other senators after he claimed the bill would endorse ‘promiscuity’ and ‘statutory rape’.

Thomas joined many state senators in  disagreeing with Christensen.

“(The bill) does not promote promiscuity, its treating a disease,” Thomas said, “If people are going to  be promiscuous, they will be (that way) no matter what the laws are.”

UNL Sexual Health Wellness Educator Lee Heerten also disagreed with Christensen.

“I don’t understand how this bill could be construed as a promotion of anything other than the health and well-being of our communities,” said Heerten.

UNL students can get std/sti testing done on campus at the health center.

“We offer in-house laboratory services, so patients can quickly and easily get their tests done and their results back.” Heerten said.

The University Health Center also provides free HIV tests at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center every Friday from noon to 4 p.m. until April 26th.

Free HIV testing will then resume again in the fall.

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