The Student Life Wellness Center will now offer an additional night of free HIV/STI testing in the Student Life Multicultural Center in the Ohio Union starting this semester.
Every Wednesday this semester students now have access to testing from 5 to 9 p.m., in addition to last semester’s Tuesday testing in the same location, and Thursday testing, which occurs in the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
“Our main goal is always to reach more students and to have more students tested,” said Blake Marble, assistant director of the Student Wellness Center. “By implementing an additional night of testing, we are better able to work toward this goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20 percent of persons infected with HIV in the U.S. are unaware of their HIV status and 1 in 500 college students are infected with HIV in the U.S., according to State of Ohio HIV infections annual surveillance statistics.
All individuals, from ages 13 to 64, should be tested at least once for HIV as part of routine health care, according to CDC’s STD and HIV screening recommendations.
“Many people do not know they are infected or do not think they would be infected,” said Susan Koletar, director of Ohio State’s Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine. “Many people might think that sexually active gay and bisexual men are more likely to be infected by HIV, but the truth is everyone can be at risk if you have sex with others, especially if you’re sexually active or have sex with people you don’t know their HIV status.”
HIV is primarily transmitted by vaginal or anal sexual intercourse without use of a condom or sharing of injection drug equipment, like needles. If people infected with HIV do not know their HIV status, a lot of harm can be done to both the individuals and the public, said Michael Para, an OSU professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine.
“From the (public) health point of view, the biggest concern is that the person with HIV will go to infect others and the epidemic will continue to spread,” Para said in an email. “From the person’s point of view, the infection can progress, the virus will steadily erode the immune system and the person will become susceptible to serious even fatal infections.”
Koletar said it’s best to get checked and treated sooner than later.
“It allows people to do better in the long run, to take medicines earlier to suppress virus and help their immune system be maintained and restored, and to minimize the later-stage damages,” she said.
Marble said this testing is confidential and anonymous. Students can choose to be anonymous and receive results verbally, or give names and receive a paper copy of results.
The Student Wellness Center provides testing in partnership with Columbus Public Health. Thus, it follows the rules and policies of the Ohio Department of Health and protects the privacy of clients strictly and reliably, Marble said.
“These guidelines are also set to connect positive patients to resources and care in a timely manner,” Marble said.
The HIV testing is performed via the OraQuick ADVANCE Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody test, which is approved by the FDA and is used by many testing agencies around the country, said Marble.
“The biggest advantage of this test is that it’s a rapid test, which only takes around 20 minutes, so you can get your results pretty quickly on the spot,” Koletar said. “Another advantage is the test is done via oral swab, so it’s painless — no blood or needles involved.”
Marble said the nature of the test enables people to learn their status in one visit and allows HIV-positive patients to connect with medical professionals immediately.
Para said all sexual assault victims would be offered testing for common STDs, including HIV testing, by trained medical staff in the Emergency Department at Wexner Medical Center.
Para said people should be aware that the results are 99.8 percent accurate after the “window period,” which means a new infection with HIV would not result in a positive HIV test for two to four weeks after exposure.
“If you’re very recently exposed (to) a person, you should get re-tested 30 days after potential exposure,” Para said.
This free testing also includes chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis tests, which take five to 10 business days to process. Clients will be contacted by Columbus Public Health if the test returns positive.