HIV: Get Tested, Be a Hero

Photo by Tim Brown
Photo by Tim Brown

While students explore their sexuality with multiple partners and unsafe sex, a health journal from PubMed Central says college has become the perfect place for HIV to fester.

College students have always been at medical risk. Whether it’s sexually transmitted diseases or the lack of health insurance, college students can’t afford to care for their health.

Fortunately, policies are changing. Universities are offering health insurances of their own, as well as free state testing for diseases like HIV and AIDS in order to change these students’ minds about the value of HIV testing.

During a health conference in January, Marianne Johnston-Petty, Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) for the University of Alaska Anchorage, suggested that the student health center should take part in the National HIV Testing day to promote awareness and prevention of HIV & AIDS.

Nearly six months later, the Student Health and Counseling Center, or SHCC, offered a National HIV Testing day available to students on June 27.

Georgia DeKeyser, Interim Director and ANP said, “The SHCC did 546 HIV tests from August 2012 to June 2013.”

More people came in through 11 months than days in a year, which proves college students are becoming more proactive when it concerns their health.

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The test takes a few drops of blood, saliva or urine to search for any sign of HIV. The main indicator for the virus is a raised number of antibodies in a healthy body. The appearance of antibodies means that even while a person may appear in good physical shape, their body is already trying to fight off any bacteria or virus that could be there, including HIV.

Everyone is at risk for HIV and AIDS. A brochure from the SHCC says, “no matter who you are, this test is for you.” This virus doesn’t care about age, sex, race or sexual orientation. The issue is when people who need to be treated don’t know they have HIV to begin with.

Much like Typhoid Mary, who was the figurehead of the typhoid fever outbreak in the early 1900s, “healthy carriers” of HIV, don’t usually show any noticeable symptoms. As Mary Mallon began spreading typhoid through her cooking services between 1900-1908 and 1910-1915, nearly 50 people became ill.

In the end, if Typhoid Mary could have put down her cooking utensils, she would have saved the patients that she had originally infected with typhoid fever.

Yet, contrary to the outbreak of Typhoid Fever, HIV isn’t obtained through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Instead, it’s spread through blood-to-blood contact, sharing needles or sexual contact.

According to http://aids.gov, a website used to promote awareness for the prevention of HIV and AIDS, “one out of five living with HIV, are unaware of their infection.” This website also states that every nine and a half minutes, a person is contaminated with HIV. Consequentially, this person may or may not receive AIDS, if they are treated early enough.

Today, modern medicine has made HIV treatable, and livable. Here in the United States, medical professionals have found ways to delay the inevitable. With supplements and pills, infected people can still live normal lives, until their immune system gives out completely. A recent study from Emory University Center for Aids research, shows that with the right medical treatments and health provisions, a person diagnosed with HIV can live at least for 24 more years. In comparison to a study from 1993, the lifespan nearly tripled.

No matter the results of the test, knowing is far better than contaminating loved ones or complete strangers. While saving others from the wrath of HIV, getting tested is the first step to becoming a hero.