In order to make HIV testing more accessible and open to students, the Lambda alliance and the Tidewater AIDS Community Taskforce co-sponsored free testing yesterday.
Free HIV testing was offered during a four-hour period at the Sadler Center. Students were able to walk in and take an oral test.
The Tidewater AIDS Community Taskforce is an organization that provides outreach and education about HIV/AIDS to the Hampton Roads area.
“There is an education part,” TACT Outreach specialist Jerome Cuffee. “We come out and do the testing. It’s a twenty-minute test and it is just to see if there are any antibodies present. It is 99.6 percent effective.”
If the oral test results are positive, students take an additional test in order to determine whether or not they have HIV/AIDS. Cuffee stressed the importance of getting tested frequently so that the disease can be caught early and treated properly.
“Once a person has come in contact with a person who is HIV-positive, the antibodies can develop anywhere during a three to six month window period,” Cuffee said. “We advise students to get tested twice a year.”
If caught early, HIV can be a manageable disease.
“As long as a person is aware that they have it and are in treatment for it, a person can live a normal life span,” Cuffee said. “HIV now is being compared to diabetes or high blood pressure. It is something you can live with.”
Cuffee advocates for education and awareness about HIV so that students know exactly how it is transmitted and when they need to get tested.
“There is still a lot of stigma out there about it,” Cuffee said. “A lot of people think it can be transmitted by saliva, but there are only four main body fluids that can transmit HIV. They are blood, semen, breast milk and vaginal fluids.”
Students agree that free HIV testing can provide education and awareness on campus.
“It’s obviously a good thing,” Tyler Minnich ’13 said. “It provides a service that isn’t easily accessible. How many people would go to a doctor and ask for an HIV test?”
Ian Kingsbury ’13 agreed that the testing would continue to promote awareness to an issue that is not viewed prominently on campus.
“I guess it’s a good idea but I think the vast majority of men wouldn’t bother,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t think it’s perceived to be a problem at this campus. It doesn’t seem like anyone is concerned with being effected.
In order to make free HIV testing available to students, the Tidewater AIDS Community Taskforce initiated contact with the College of William and Mary.
“One of our workers reached out to the campus and tried to initiate the testing,” Cuffee said. “Lambda Alliance embraced it.”
The Taskforce is able to offer free testing to campuses all around the Hampton Roads area because they receive state and federal funding.
“We work off of federal and state funded grants through the Virginia Department of Health,” Cuffee said. “We partner with local health departments and they provide the testing supplies and everything we use to test people.”