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Planned Parenthood To Offer Free STI Testing In 5 Chicago High Schools

Participating schools will implement three different models of STI testing so Planned Parenthood of Illinois can determine which best serves students and expand the program next year.

A Planned Parenthood physician conducts STI testing.
Planned Parenthood Illinois
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CHICAGO — Planned Parenthood of Illinois will offer an STI testing pilot program in five Chicago Public Schools thanks to a grant from the Chicago Department of Public Health, officials said. 

The $525,000 grant will enable Planned Parenthood Illinois bring back its Chicago Healthy Adolescents & Teens testing program in five high schools in October. The program was paused in 2020 due to the pandemic, said Cary Archer, Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ senior manager of education. 

“Routine testing for STIs is really important overall for someone’s health, but it’s something that often has barriers to access especially for young people who might not know where to get tested or can’t afford it,” Archer said. “This program brings testing to students directly, so it overcomes several barriers right there.” 

Officials have not yet determined which schools will offer the program, but eligible students will receive information from their schools about how they can access the STI testing in the next few months, Archer said. 

Each of the participating schools will have slightly different models of the testing program so organizers can determine which works best for students, Archer said. 

“Our goal is to find a way to make this program more scalable than it had been in the past, so we can reach a larger number of schools,” Archer said.

Through the program, students will be able to access optional urine tests that diagnose chlamydia and gonorrhea, Archer said. 

Some schools will offer the tests to students to take home and then bring back to school so they can be sent to a lab for the results, Archer said. Other schools will offer the tests after students receive some educational programming about sexually transmitted infections, Archer said. 

The third model includes a designated week where Planned Parenthood educators will be onsite to offer testing, educational programming and answer any questions students have about reproductive healthcare. 

“In all three of the models, information about all kinds of reproductive healthcare services will made accessible to students,” Archer said. “In the new year, we’ll roll out the program in more schools based on which opportunities schools seem to want and need most.” 

After a few high schools offer the testing program this year, officials hope to expand the program to reach more students in 2024.

Bringing STI testing directly to students helps to normalize reproductive healthcare by giving young people accurate information in a comfortable environment, Archer said. It also results in better health outcomes for students than requiring them to seek out reproductive health care on their own, Archer said. 

“It allows students to build a sense of confidence and self-determination around making healthcare choices for themselves,” Archer said. “Bringing these services directly to students helps them consider testing a normal part of healthcare, not something that’s secretive or something they don’t have enough information about.” 

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