With free HIV testing now available, not getting tested should not be an option.
Brand new this year from Temple’s Health Education and Awareness Resource Team, HEART, are free weekly AIDS tests for students. The testing is completely confidential, free of charge and performed conveniently on Main Campus at HEART’s headquarters on the lower level of Mitten Hall.
Just in time for AIDS Awareness Week, which ends Dec. 3, The Temple News is getting the word out to students about this beneficial new service. Previously, though, it seems most students have had misconceptions about the availability, locations and even the testing procedures.
In Philadelphia, there are at least 25 locations to receive confidential HIV testing. Although almost all are free (while those that aren’t are generally priced using a need-based sliding scale), about half the centers offering the tests are specialized toward a certain group – for example, the William Way Community Center, which is geared toward the LGBTQ community, offers free tests on Mondays. Similarly, the Woman’s Anonymous Testing Site, located at 12th and Chestnut streets, is gender-specific.
When people think of AIDS or HIV, some still envision the homosexual stereotype attached to the disease. In turn, those people probably feel that they have to go to a specialized center to get tested, which would cause embarrassment to those sensitive about personal choices. But we should all know HIV and AIDS aren’t diseases only homosexuals are exposed to.
“It’s sort of embarrassing,” said Reese Revak, a first-year graduate student with a major in piano accompaniment. “You don’t want to go and broadcast that you want to get tested for AIDS, even though you go to a nurse you don’t know and don’t see again.”
Revak said he was thinking about getting tested, but until learning about HEART’s new resource, he didn’t know where to find it.
“I wasn’t sure exactly where to go,” he said. “I didn’t know about HEART’s testing, but I knew they used to have it in the dorms sometimes. What if I went into Student Health Services and I asked about it and [found out] it’s the wrong place?”
Revak seems to speak for many students on the humiliation factor attached to HIV and AIDS testing. However, the other concern he voiced involving testing seems just as common as the former.
“A lot of times they do a blood test,” Revak said, “and I think that discourages some students.”
But Revak’s concern about the means by which testing is done is a mere misconception. As of 1997, the Oral Fluid Test began to be implemented in the world of HIV testing, replacing the longer process of blood testing, which had been used since the disease was discovered in the early 1980s.
The Oral Fluid Test is just as accurate as a blood test and takes less than 30 minutes to render results, compared to the one to two weeks of waiting involved after a blood test. Also, the OFT involves just a quick swab on the inside of the gums with a special device, which takes some oral fluids – not saliva – to look for antibodies to HIV, according to hivtest.org.
“Knowing it’s an oral test might be more encouraging to people if they’re freaked out by needles,” Revak said. “I didn’t even know there was an option other than a blood test.”
Now that campus has such a convenient facility for getting tested for AIDS and HIV, there’s no excuse for students not to do it, even when they may be almost completely sure they don’t have it. To use the most annoying, yet accurate, cliché I know: It’s better to be safe than sorry.
“The big thing is that when you have sex with someone and you don’t have a condom, the other person might be telling you they’re clean just to have sex with you,” Revak said. “There’s no level of trust sometimes. This test is free, and if you’re worried about the person finding out, it’s also confidential.”
Carlene Majorino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.