Groningen health service excludes students looking for free STD test

Young people under twenty-five can get tested for STDs for free at the Public Health Service (GGD). In reality, the GGD turns students away. 

Floris (24) wanted to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The GGD tests people under twenty-five or those who are at risk for free, he read on the Sense website. Sense is the organisation the performs the tests. But every time he called the GGD, he was told the same things: ‘We’re full up’, and ‘You’re not at risk’. 

Julia (20) encountered the same issue. ‘It was really frustrating’, she says. ‘Shouldn’t everyone have access to free testing to prevent STDs from spreading and keep people safe?’  

GP

In theory, GGDs provide free tests for particular demographics. But in Groningen, the GGD appears to be refusing students. 

‘Taking an STD test at our facility is an option if you can’t get one anywhere else’, says Lily Benjamin, spokesperson for the Groningen GGD. ‘You should either go to your GP or order a self-test online before you come to us.’

But those tests cost money. ‘Getting tested for something like three STDs will cost at least a hundred bucks at the GP’, says Floris. A self-test costs at least 55 euros. That’s why the students are looking for alternatives. Floris tried a different municipality’s GGD, and they had an opening within a week. He is surprised. 

High risk

Joost (20) says that some of his friends pretend to be part of a high-risk group to get an appointment at the Groningen GGD. Men who have sexual intercourse with other men or people experiencing STD-related symptoms are part of such groups. ‘Then they can suddenly fit you in’, he says. 

Because STD tests other than at the GGD are so expensive, students don’t really get tested enough, says Joost. ‘They’ll only test for those STDs their sexual partners told them about or that they’re showing symptoms of.’ Or they don’t get tested at all, adds Floris. ‘It would be nice if the Groningen GGD changed its policy’, he says. ‘It would benefit many students’ sexual health.’

Policy

But it doesn’t look like the organisation is planning a change any time soon. GGDs are independent and determine their own policies. That means some of them do test young people, while others only do it as a last resort for people who can’t go to their GP or afford a self-test. 

‘Free for students doesn’t mean free for all of us’, says Benjamin. ‘These tests do cost money. In this case, it’s the public that pays for them.’

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