UNH Health & Wellness hosts Get Yourself Tested Month

Stefanie Kistler

DURHAM- While April brings more sun and the beginnings of warmer weather, it also brings another important event: Get Yourself Tested Month 


Get Yourself Tested Month is an initiative by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in order to spread awareness about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), testing for it and how to stop the spread. 


At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Health & Wellness takes the month to run STI testing clinics and spread more awareness about STIs and how to have safer sex practices. While testing at Health & Wellness is not free and is only available to students who pay the health fee, it is highly recommended. In order to encourage testing, Health &Wellness also offers a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop to any student that gets screened or tested. 


Dawn Zitney, a wellness education counselor at UNH who specializes in sexual wellness, has a huge hand in Get Yourself Tested Month, running walk in clinics and helping spread information to students. 


“We really push testing all year round; we offer it whenever we are open. However, we really honor this month and the CDC campaign,” said Zitney. 


“If you look at the data of young people (ages 18-25) that get STIs and HIV the numbers are pretty staggering. The rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are going up and we are seeing antibiotic resistant strains,” said Zitney. 


She shared that many students may feel intimidated by the thought of getting screened or tested, but says that the process is not scary at all.  


“At these screenings you will simply meet with healthcare provider, and they will talk to you about your sexual history,” Zitney said.  


Questions about sexual history, such as number of partners and type of sexual experiences being had, may feel very personal, but Zitney says that they are incredibly important in the grand scheme of sexual health. 


“If you test positive, we work with you for treatment. Our clinicians help you with whatever you need. I want students to understand that we will be there every step of the way,” she explained.  



STIs, although less stigmatized than they were many years ago, are still a taboo topic among many groups of people. Many people find discussions surrounding STIs uncomfortable or hide their diagnosis out of fear of social repercussions. 


“I do see students diagnosed with an STI who are coping with it. It can be a really emotional thing for students.” said Zitney. “Even if you have an STI you can go on to have a beautiful and pleasurable sex life. STI’s do not stop you from being the sexual being you choose to be.” 


Samantha Ansart, a UNH junior and sexual well-being intern, spoke on her perspective of knowledge of sexual safety around UNH’s campus. 


“Knowledge about sexual safety around campus is not very well known. Between clinics, we often slow down a lot,” said Ansart, describing the drop in numbers of students testing between the more widely advertised walk-in clinics. She explained that many students avoid testing for STIs because they fear the public stigma if they were to test positive. She believes educating the community about how common STIs are would encourage people to test. 


Ansart also talked about hookup culture on college campuses and how that can aid in the spread of STIs.  This includes the constant pressure many feel to have sex with multiple partners, as well as the high levels of alcohol and drug usage on college campuses aid in making reckless decisions when it comes to sexual well-being.  


She urges her fellow students to strive for safer sex, in the usage of condoms, dental barriers and getting regularly tested. 



“A lot of people think having STIs is something that makes them dirty. The thing is STIs are very common and prevalent around college campuses. We need to debunk the myth that it makes you a bad person, and that asking your partner to test is an insult,” said Olivia Harrison, senior and sexual well-being intern. 


She gave some advice to students nervous about asking their partners to test. 


“When approaching partners about getting tested, they need to understand that it is just about being safe and protecting each other. Your partner should know it’s not an insult, but more of way of keeping each other as safe as possible.” 


Students can make appointments online through the Health and Wellness portal https://www.unh.edu/health/ or by calling (603) 862-9355. More information can be found on their Instagram @unhhealth.