GETTING TESTED

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus does not discriminate against anyone – and college students are no exception.

Since World AIDS Day on Sunday, Murray State has worked to increase awareness of testing for the prevalent infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year.

One in four of all new HIV infections occur among people ages 13 to 24, putting college-aged students in the middle of the risk. One way to prevent the spread of HIV is to get tested.

Since last semester, Health Services has provided students with free and confidential HIV testing.

Judy Lyle, interim associate director of Health Services, said students can be unaware of their risk of becoming infected with HIV.

“Anyone can become infected with HIV and many can be unaware they carry the virus,” Lyle said.

Sixty percent of all young people with HIV are unaware they are infected, according to the CDC. Due to this fact, many are not getting treated and can unknowingly pass the virus along to others.

Lyle said students seeking HIV testing at Health Services have to call and set up an appointment.

The HIV screening is an oral test, and the results can be known within 20 minutes of completing the test, making the average visit time for the screening only 30 minutes, Lyle said.

Blood tests can also be done if a student chooses to do so, but the results could take up to seven to 10 days and would have to be sent to a state lab.

Last semester, 40 HIV tests were completed at Health Services. This semester, 12 tests have been completed since mid October.

Lyle said she expects to see an increase in the amount of testing next semester, due to increased promotion of services and increased funds.

Health Services received $5,000 for HIV testing last month from The Monday Campaigns, an organization whose goal is to help schools commit to healthy behaviors to help end chronic and preventable diseases.

The President’s Commission on Diversity also donated $1,000 for testing and Health Services has provided an additional $500.

Lyle said these funds will go toward purchasing more oral tests and additional promotion for testing to spread awareness to students.

Shelby Hall, junior nursing major from Louisville, Ky., said she can see the importance of HIV testing for students.

“I feel that if students have any questions about getting tested they definitely need to,” Hall said. “It is important for students to be aware of their situation, especially if they are sexually active.”

Lyle said HIV can often go undetected due to lack of symptoms, so it is important for students to take action. She said those who are infected with HIV are more likely to become infected with other sexually transmitted diseases.

She said even if students have only been with one sexual partner or are no longer sexually active, it is still important to be tested.

According to the CDC and Prevention, young people who report being at risk for HIV are more likely to get tested, but many at risk have still not been tested.

All young people at risk, whether it be from sexual activity or injecting drugs, need to be tested to prevent and save lives, according to CDC.

There are two certified counselors on campus, making Health Services a certified site to conduct HIV testing.

Lyle said the spread of HIV can be prevented by communication, using protection such as condoms and reducing the number of sexual partners.

Said Lyle: “Students are encouraged to get tested because it is free, convenient, confidential and most importantly important to a (student’s) health.”

 

Story by Rebecca Walter, Staff writer