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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Campus groups offering free HIV testing

    With the $50 shoes for mom, $30 cologne for dad, plane ticket home for the holidays and countless other expenses that come with the season, students have become wary of their growing financial burdens. However, some groups on campus are ensuring that good health does not have to come with a price tag.

    The Women’s Resource Center and the Social Justice Leadership Center are offering free HIV testing on campus today from noon to 3 p.m.

    Jai Smith, intern at the Women’s Resource Center, said the whole event is RSVP only, the tests will be performed by a nurse practitioner from Pima County Health Department and there will be two HIV counselors to help individuals with the process.

    “”The RSVP list is full now, and each individual was assigned a certain time to come and get tested,”” Smith said. “”The process is a finger stick. It’s very similar to taking an insulin reading, and it takes about 35 minutes for the test to come back. And the counselors are there if one person’s test come back positive, and this way they have the resources they need for their newly diagnosed status.””

    The event will take place in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at the Student Union Memorial Center, where there is a private room for finger sticks, and two private rooms for each of the counselors. Smith mentioned that there is complete confidentiality throughout the process.

    Allie Piccolo, a family studies and human development sophomore, said there is a definite need for more events like this.

    “”I think a lot of people are just scared when it comes to this disease, so they hold back from getting tested,”” Piccolo said. “”Free HIV testing is a great idea because it’s on campus, as opposed to a doctor’s office, it’s convenient and it’s free! So there really is no reason to not get tested.””

    Smith said the Women’s Resource Center initially advertised this event to the LGBTQ and minority women communities, because those two groups have the highest rate of HIV infection. However, as far as reservations go, Smith said he did not turn down anyone who did not fall into those two categories.

    Smith said the popularity of the free HIV testing event stems from the ongoing education about HIV/AIDS throughout the month.

    “”Our RSVP list filled up (Monday) morning, and already we have 20 more people who are trying to RSVP,”” Smith said. “”So obviously there is a need for another one of these events, and I’m going to express that to Pima County Health so we can put on more of these events.””

    Judging by the fact that 45 people have already turned in RSVPs and the organizers have filled their quota a day early, Smith said free HIV testing is a major need for the campus community.

    “”A lot of people are afraid to talk about this topic, so I think of this as a service to campus. There is a nurse practitioner who knows what they are doing to help you, and there are counselors here to speak with you if you are HIV-positive,”” Smith explained. “”I think it demystifies some of that fear of the actual virus itself and encourages more people to come out and get tested.””

    As for the future of this event, Smith said he hopes to make the event larger.

    “”Ultimately what I would like to do is instead of having people RSVP, people could just show up,”” Smith said. “”My goal is to make this a continual thing on campus, not just a once-a-year event. I want to make it a part of continual programming, hopefully once a month – but that’s still a far planning stage away.””

    The event is a result of collaboration between the WRC, the Social Justice Leadership Center, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, the Pima County Health Department, the Student Health Advisory Committee and AIDS SAFE of Tucson.

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