This semester, the SF State Student Health Center is partnering with a pharmaceutical company to provide students with free GARDASIL, a vaccine that protects against the human papillomavirus or HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection.
In order to receive the vaccine for free, students must apply for the pharmaceutical company’s patient assistance program. The easiest way to apply for the program is through the SF State Student Health Center, which is helping to streamline the application process.
“College is a big time of exploration for sexuality and things like that,” said Aimée Williams, lead health educator from SF State student health services. “It’s important to be aware of your health during this time and this is a great opportunity to protect your health and the health of your future partners.”
The prevalence of this STI is especially significant on college campuses and thus the health center is strongly encouraging all students, male and female, to get vaccinated, said Williams.
GARDASILprotects against four of the leading types of HPV and is given to both men and women in three doses over the course of six months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with more than 40 types that can infect the genitals of both men and women. Several of these HPV strains can also infect the throat and mouth.
HPV is passed from partner to partner through genital contact, namely through vaginal and anal sex. Those infected often do not show any symptoms and HPV genital warts are sometimes very difficult to see. Left untreated, some HPV strains can cause cancer, most notably cervical cancer in female patients. HPV vaccines are cited by the CDC as being one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent contraction of the disease.
The makers of the vaccine, Merck, created their patient assistance program to allow low income patients better access to expensive medications.
“Like many pharmaceutical companies, (Merck) have expensive products that many people can’t afford,” said Carol Brewer, administrative analyst for the Student Health Center. “We are trying to help smooth out the process of getting these vaccines for free because we know how important it is for students to receive them.”
The health center is helping to do so by providing students with guidance in filling out and faxing in finished applications, receiving the confirmation of approval and vaccinating students within the same day. Students who qualify will receive the first dose of the vaccine for free and can reapply for the other two doses at the appropriate times.
Without this process, students obtaining the shot at the student health center would normally pay $519 for the complete three doses at $173 per dose.
Many students on campus agree that this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
“There are a lot of students who can’t afford this vaccine; there are a lot of people on campus that are struggling,” said Steven Hopper, 20, BECA major. “So this is a pretty important thing, I think it’s great.”
Voicing similar sentiments, Williams was quick to encourage students to apply, “If someone doesn’t have health insurance, this is a great opportunity to get this vaccine for free. Most people are being approved. Come in and get signed up.”