Get past the stigma and get tested for HIV/AIDS and STDS

Colleen Foster, ‘Doah Assistant Managing Editor
December 5, 2012

World AIDS Day was Dec. 1. Bringing awareness to the issue on a more local scale, the Wellness Center at S.U. offered free HIV/AIDS and STD testing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. two days later on Dec. 3.

Staff from the AIDS Response Efforts (ARE) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) carried out the tests, which took about twenty minutes each. They were entirely confidential and involved no needles, just a mouth swab and a urine sample.

“I want students to take responsibility for their own health and wellness,” said Director of Health Services Ron Stickley, who has planned these tests annually for several years. “It is important for students to know that if they have ever had unprotected sex just one time, they need to know their status so they do not contract a disease or unknowingly pass the disease to someone else.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that teens and adults in the 13-24 age range comprise 26 percent of all new HIV infections, yet over half of them are unaware of it. This is largely due in part to lingering stigma and homophobia, as AIDS still carries the connotation of being a “gay man’s disease,” or connected to illegal drug use.

The three main ways that HIV is spread are sexual transmission, blood and being passed mother-to-child. Preventative measures include education, condom use and harm reduction, such as providing clean needles and syringes in areas where there is high drug use.

As uncomfortable a subject as it may be, knowing your status is crucial. And if detected, there are treatment options. It is no longer the “death sentence” it was in the late ‘80s. There are more than 20 approved antiretroviral drugs. Proactively, the drug Truvada is now even being sold as a preventative measure for people who have not been infected with HIV but are in high risk groups.
The website http://www.aids.gov has more information, a service locator, federal resources and news and event listings for anyone in search of them.

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