Did you know that your student health fee provides a variety of health consultation and assistance from pregnancy, disease and infection prevention to mental health and counseling services?
Registered students can go to PCC Health Services, located in D105, where doctors, registered nurses, and a registered dietitian are all available for consultation and by appointment. Students have to bring ID and be enrolled in classes to make an appointment.
There is easy access to literature outside health services. Free contraception – such as condoms, non-latex condoms, female condoms, and dams – is available at reception at no charge.
Registered nurse Carmita Veliz, who has been offering assistance to PCC students since 2001, said sex-related health questions are the most frequent reason a student gives when consulting with the center.
“If students are sexually active, [a common inquiry] would be for a pregnancy test, or it might be a question regarding the morning after pill,” Veliz said. “Or it might be questions regarding birth control.”
Urine tests are provided free to determine pregnancy. A student’s last sexual encounter is determined for the sake of timing for the test.
“If the pregnancy test is negative, then we can talk to them about STDs or birth control, if that’s something that they haven’t thought about or have thought about,” Veliz said. “And if it’s positive, then as an RN we are giving them information as to what choices they may want to look at.”
An option discussed with a student who has concerns regarding a possible pregnancy it the morning after pill, or emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), which is taken the morning after sex to help to prevent a pregnancy within the first 3 days. It is available for a small fee. Such a pill is free at Planned Parenthood.
“I always let students know that,” said Veliz. “Even though it’s $15, what’s good about having it here is it’s pretty quick. They’re not waiting two or three hours to get it.”
Before providing an ECP, a healthcare provider, such as nurse practitioner, Valli Cohen, provides some instructions, goes over side effects, and gets the female student’s consent.
“The ECP makes the lining of the uterus unfavorable for implantation and it causes an early withdrawal bleed,” explained Cohen. “That’s how it works. If a woman is already pregnant, it is not going to cause a miscarriage. It’s not 100%. You can still get pregnant if you take the morning after pill, but it does reduce the likelihood of pregnancy quite a bit.”
Additionally, vaccinations for STDs–now called STIs or Sexually Transmitted Infections—are readily available for several common afflictions. Two free STI tests are available for Chlamydia and HIV, and on Tuesdays, outside counseling is provided so students can get HIV test results in about 20 minutes.
“We [also] test for Gonorrhea, we test for Hepatitis B, and we test for Syphilis,” said Veliz. “Gonorrhea and Hepatitis B are both bacteria, and if they come back positive, we treat for free. We can’t cure viruses.”
According to Veliz, Hepatitis B is “100 times more contagious than HIV.” Another common virus that has been attributed to causing cervical cancer in women is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is now available and suggested for men as well.
“One of the best things students can actually do is get their Gardasil vaccine, if they have insurance.That’s for the HPV virus,” said Veliz. “If they have insurance, it’s already [covered]. If they don’t, we have a program we can try to get that free for them if they qualify.”
Psychological services and referrals are made after consultation depending on students’ needs and concerns or if they are in emotional distress.
“Sometimes if students are upset, we’ll help them out, refer them to psychological services,” Veliz said.
“Everybody that works here loves their job,” Veliz said. “That’s something students feel good about when they come in. Sometimes there’s just a little something that’s troubling the student and it’s, ‘Let’s stop. Let’s take care of you. You’re in a good place.’”
Health Services Summer semester hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are closed Fridays, with increased hours in the Fall semester.
The Courier will debut a new Sex and Health column in the Fall that will address questions from inquiring students. Send emailed questions to: PCCSexandHealth@gmail.com.
Submissions will be answered in future editions. PCC health and other professionals will be consulted.