By Angela Le Quieu , Staff Reporter | Photo By Angela Le Quieu
The Know Now mobile medical unit will be coming to the CNM area and will offer free tests for two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in New Mexico, and the unit will also provide free pregnancy tests, Mobile Unit Director Joan Douglas said.
Starting March 17 the mobile medical unit will be parked in various places around the city from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., but mostly in the area around the CNM and UNM campuses near Yale Boulevard to provide access to STD testing and pregnancy tests to low income families and students, Douglas said.
“Being able to offer it for free and being able to pay the minimal fee that we have to pay to do that is a huge service and benefit to the students, and I hope they will take advantage of it,” Douglas said.
For more information on the Know Now mobile medical unit or to find a location where the unit with be, students can call 720-5537.
The Center for Disease Detection out of San Antonio, Texas provides STD tests to organizations such as Know Now to make the tests more affordable and so that people can get results quickly, Douglas said.
The mobile unit will be testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are the two fastest growing STDs and have been a major concern in the state of New Mexico, Douglas said.
The unit will be spending the majority of its time in the campus area in the afternoon and early evening in order to be more accessible to students, because their studies and research have shown the
STDs to be in people around college age and near CNM or UNM, Douglas said. highest concentration of these
“It’s really scary, I would be afraid to be a college or early career person and dating multiple people at this time in our culture,” Douglas said.
Another reason that this unit will focus only on the two STDs mentioned, is because they are the ones most likely to lead to reproductive health issues in the future if remained untreated, Douglas said.
The test that they will be using for the STD screening is a urine test and one of the most accurate, and because they use a urine test, they can also test for pregnancy at the same time and with the same sample, Douglas said.
If a student’s test results come back positive for an STD, the Know Now unit will send students to UNMH Student Health and Counseling and the New Mexico Department of Health for treatment referrals, Douglas said.
“With it becoming of epidemic proportions, we feel that the responsible thing to do is to go in and offer testing and then treatment referrals, also it’s an opportunity to educate on those needs and why it is so important that they receive treatment,” Douglas said.
For positive pregnancy results Know Now will offer free limited ultrasounds that can help determine the normal progression of a pregnancy, Douglas said.
Although the mobile medical unit is providing pregnancy tests the service is not just for women, as STD testing will also be available for men, Douglas said.
“If a woman’s test comes back positive, we would not be doing our job if we didn’t encourage her to bring her partner in to be tested also, both are going to need treatment,” Douglas said.
According to NMDH in their STD Surveillance Report for 2012, chlamydia rates in NM were well above the national rate, and gonorrhea rates were below the national average but have risen rapidly.
The report states that there were 575 cases per 100,000 population of chlamydia and 90 cases per 100,000 population of gonorrhea in New Mexico for 2012, and that Bernalillo County had some of the highest instances of both STDs.
The Know Now unit will be working with the NMDH to help them to understand where some of the concentrations are and where the spread of STDs happen the most, so that in the future NMDH can direct their resources in an efficient way, Douglas said.
Even though they will help the state with a number of cases, the tests will be confidential, and there is a number that is needed to obtain the results, or Know Now will ask students to return to the unit to get their results in person and get a referral if needed, Douglas said.
There are other services providing STD testing in the campus area according to UNM SHAC’s website at shac.unm.edu, and the Sexual Health Resource Guide for STD testing in Albuquerque lists other places where students can have access to free or cheaper testing.
The guide details where and when testing services are available and what the cost may be.
Unlike sources for testing like Planned Parenthood and the UNM SHAC, the Know Now unit will be offering the tests for free, and because of the overnight courier system used, students will have access to their results quickly, Douglas said.
“So that’s going to be huge for some of these kids especially if they have suspected that they have an STD, but haven’t done anything about it because of money, or not wanting people to know, or not knowing what to do. I think that’s going to make a huge difference,” Douglas said.
The websites for Planned Parenthood and UNM SHAC at plannedparenthood.org and shac.unm.edu do not list the pricing schedule for STD testing or the rate at which the results return, but they do take Medicaid and other insurance.
Until the mobile medical unit knows how many tests will be used in a week, the samples will be sent out on Thursday nights, and the results will be available on Friday morning before noon, Douglas said.
The Know Now medical unit will be in the CNM and UNM area on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and on Wednesdays it will be at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial near Louisiana and Gibson, as well as on Fridays, when the mobile unit will be north of UNM at Lomas and Edith, Douglas said.
“It’s a smart move (to get tested) in today’s culture and it’s going to become a necessary one in the not too distant future, I think,” Douglas said.