HIV testing times expanded

The free HIV testing program on campus, which is part of a citywide HIV testing initiative, has become more accommodating to students' schedules, according to Student Health Center Director Daniel Bruey.

This year, HIV tests can be performed at any time during health center hours, Bruey said. While tests are available at anytime, Bruey said, students will wait less if they come in when a certified nurse is available specifically for testing purposes. The nurse is in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday and Friday afternoons, he said

Last fall, Bruey worked with Women's Initiative to become part of the citywide HIV testing initiative. The District-wide program started in June 2006 and is focused on increasing HIV awareness around D.C. HIV testing locations in D.C. are available on the D.C. Department of Health's Web site.

OFF-CAMPUS TESTING SITES

In June 2006, D.C. began a program to promote HIV awareness in the city. Various locations offer HIV testing. Some of those locations are listed below:

Andromeda 1400 Decatur St. 202-291-4707 Monday to Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Carl Vogel Center 1012 14th St., Suite 700 202-638-0750 Monday, walk-in 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday 4 p.m.-6 p.m., Thursday to Friday 4 p.m.-5 p.m.

La Clinica del Pueblo 2831 15th St. 202-462-4788 Monday, Tuesday and Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Planned Parenthood 1108 16th St. 202-347-8512 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Thursday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Us Helping Us 3636 Georgia Ave. 202-446-1100 Monday to Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

SOURCE: D.C. Department of Health Web site

"The District's goal is to move toward making HIV testing a routine part of our health care with medical visits - something like a cholesterol check," Bruey said.

Elaborating on this year's differences, Bruey said tests are now confidential instead of anonymous. With anonymous testing, a patient is identified with a number and receives test results without ever disclosing personal information, he said. With confidential testing, patients will be identifiable to medical professionals, but Bruey stressed confidential testing is secure.

"No one else will ever see that result unless you sign a form saying that information can be released," he said.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, 255 students participated in the free HIV testing events, Bruey said. The most common events last year were free testing nights, during which students could come to the health center at advertised times to be tested anonymously. The tests are administered with a mouth swab, and students learn their results in 20 minutes, Bruey said

When the D.C. testing campaign began last June, the District had wanted all testing to be confidential so it could provide counseling and follow-up testing for people with abnormal results, Bruey said.

Last year, AU performed anonymous testing because testing was done in mass settings, said Ravenna Motil-McGuire, director of the Women's Initiative HIV/AIDS Outreach and Awareness program.

"Since we've moved to a system where patients are being tested individually as patients, as opposed to part of a massive, anonymous group, it really isn't feasible to continue to test anonymously," Motil-McGuire said.

Most AU students probably shouldn't have a problem with the change in status from anonymous to confidential, said Yasmin Anis, a junior in the School of International Service.

"Some people might want more privacy," she said. "But I don't think it really matters. It depends on the person."

Anis also said she wasn't aware the health center was continuously administering tests this year. She had just known about the free testing events, she said.

Women's Initiative is addressing the lack of student awareness of the new HIV tests with a new campus advertising campaign, Motil-McGuire said.

"You'll be seeing fliers pop up all over campus in the very near future," she said.

Even without much advertising, 22 students have come to the health center for HIV tests since the first day of the 2007-2008 school year, according to Bruey. That number doesn't include students who attended the testing event at last week's Wellness Fair.

Since nearly half of new HIV infections are in people under 25, there's no reason not to get tested now that the health center has expanded its program, Motil-McGuire said. It's estimated that one in every 500 college students in D.C. is infected with HIV, and most don't know their status, she said.

"Your excuses for not getting tested have plummeted," she said. "Schedule conflicts just won't cut it anymore"

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