Despite renewed access to free HIV testing on campus, the number of students using this service remains unchanged from a year ago.
In the spring of 2011, the D.C. Department of Health cut funding for free HIV testing at AU because little to no positive tests came from AU’s student population. This forced the Student Health Center to raise the minimum price per test to $20.
AU students on the University’s Insurance Plan can be tested for HIV for free at the Student Health Center with the enactment of the website. Almost 3,000 students are enrolled in the plan, according to Student Health Center Patient Services Supervisor Teddy Peyton.
National data show low condom use by college-age individuals and a continued HIV epidemic in D.C.
College students may be having more unprotected sex than their teenage counterparts, according to a 2009 survey by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB).
The survey has concerning implications for the D.C. area, which has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country, according to a July 2012 fact sheet released by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Approximately 14,465 D.C. residents have HIV, which is 2.7 percent of its population. Anything over 1 percent is considered an epidemic by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
Only 45 percent of college-aged males and 38.7 percent of college-aged females reported using a condom during their last 10 sexual encounters, according to this survey.
Getting tested allows individuals infected with HIV to take preventive steps to stop the spread of the disease, live longer and stay healthy.
“Let’s find out now,” Daniel Bruey, director of the Student Health Center, said. “Let’s take care of it now. Let’s prevent future things from happening.”
However, most college campuses have low HIV rates, according to Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University and one of the lead researchers of the NSSHB.
HIV Testing on campus
Bruey said he could remember only two positive HIV tests conduced at AU in the eight years he worked for the Student Health Center.
The number of HIV tests administered by the Student Health Center includes,
• 285 oral and 51 blood (between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011)
• 317 oral and 14 blood (between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012)
• 121 oral and 3 blood (between May 1 2012 and Oct. 16)
The test costs $20 without going through an insurance company, Bruey said. The cost of going through one’s insurance company may actually be higher, he said.
D.C. college students recently voiced concern about HIV testing fees at university health centers.
Students at George Washington University recently protested their health center’s $25 HIV testing fee, which is $5 more expensive than AU’s, after testing dropped by nearly 200 tests last year, according to an article in GW’s newspaper The Hatchet.
“It’s not so much about who has HIV in one’s city,” Herbenick said in an email, “rather, does your partner have HIV?”