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May 22, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Students Belittled When Seeking Sexual Health Services

VUW’s Student Health Service has left a number of students feeling “belittled” and “confused.”

While students’ experiences are “usually positive,” some have reported inappropriate or inaccurate advice regarding sexual health.

A student who completed their VUW studies in 2016 reported that when receiving an STD test at Student Health in 2015, she was told by the nurse that “because Student Health has to pay for them, [she] shouldn’t be having them willy nilly.” The previous STD test she had had was two months prior.

In a similar incident in 2017, a sixth year student who was unable to pinpoint the number of sexual partners they had had between sexual health checkups was told, “I hope you’ve got it out of your system now.”

Student Health’s Assistant Medical Director Sandra Bennett told Salient, “I would consider most of our GPs would be really open and non-judgemental.”  

Bennett told Salient that although their staff did not have compulsory training in regards to sexual health above that required of all doctors, “we do regular updates for all of our team, and as part of that we touch on things pertaining to sexual health.”

A fifth year student told Salient, “I had one GP who had his Bible out on the table while he was very patronisingly telling me all the bad effects of the pill I had been taking for quite some time, which I just wanted to get a repeat prescription for.” This incident occurred in 2015, and the student believed the same doctor was still employed at VUW.

“[That doctor] gave me really bad advice […] it made me feel that my quite abnormal issues to do with my reproductive system were my own fault.”

Bennett said she was “surprised and really sorry” to hear of this experience. “It’s certainly not something we’d condone, or expect.”

Another fifth year student described her experiences with student health as “a mixed bag.”

“The first thing [one] doctor said to me — which I feel like you should never say — was, you are definitely pregnant.

The student had several pregnancy tests and an ultrasound at the doctor’s insistence in 2014. “I ended up going back to the same doctor about five times, and getting the exact same thing […] but with no solution.”

“To a point, she instilled paranoia in me, because to this day, every time I have stomach pains my response is, I must be pregnant, because that’s what that doctor told me.”

The same student was prescribed a contraceptive pill by a Student Health GP, which she later discovered she “should definitely not be on,” due to a history of blood clots in her family. The student had informed Student Health about this history.

Both fifth year students had since developed good relationships with a regular Student Health GP, though through “trial and error” and having learnt “how to work the system to [their] advantage.” While they had not made formal complaints, they had both requested not to be seen by specific doctors.

Salient lodged an Official Information Act request with VUW regarding the number of complaints received by Student Health, but VUW failed to provide a response within the 20 working day timeframe.

The latter student said that although she was happy with her current GP, her experiences had been traumatic. “I don’t think you should have to see so many different people, and be told such shitty advice for a long period of time […] before finding a good doctor.”


Salient is keen to hear about your experiences with the student health and counselling services at VUW. If you feel comfortable sharing, please get in touch with Anonymity ensured.

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