Health Center offers free HIV tests to students

Brooke Cobb, Campus Carrier staff writer

On Nov. 19 and 21 there were allotted time periods for students to receive free Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screenings. HIV screenings are likely to be offered at the health center again in the future.

HIV screenings have been offered at the health center in the past, and were offered again this semester. The Department of Public Health reached out to the health center here at Berry to see if there would be an interest in offering screenings to students. 

“We are trying to make a habit of doing it every year, so we are hoping to do it again next semester or next year,” Health Center Assistant Outreach Director Jacqueline Lea, junior, said.

Students were able to receive screenings that were free and confidential. Each student got a World AIDS Day t-shirt and other promotional items after their screening. The screenings were being offered just before World AIDS day, which is Dec. 1.

“Only 19 students were tested for HIV,” District HIV Prevention Coordinator Viktor said. “None of the students were HIV positive but many remain to be at risk of HIV due to unprotected sex.”

Unprotected sex is one of the most common ways that HIV is transmitted. The Health Center can supply condoms and birth control to students following a consultation. Individuals who engage in unprotected sex or the sharing of needles should get tested despite a lack of symptoms.

“The first 2-4 weeks after being infected with HIV, you may feel feverish, achy, and sick,” Mamford said. “These flu-like symptoms are your body’s first reaction to the HIV infection. During this time, there is a lot of the virus in your system, so it is really easy to spread HIV to other people. The symptoms only last for a few weeks, and then you usually do not have symptoms again for years. But HIV can be spread to other people – whether or not you have symptoms or feel sick.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains HIV as a virus that attacks the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections. HIV is contracted through the exchange of body fluids and can lead to AIDS. According to the CDC, the only way to know for sure if you have the virus is to get tested. The screenings at the health center were brief and gave results quickly.

“The process of the test was so fast. It is a finger prick…then she mixes it with solution and you know in less than a minute whether you are positive or negative,” Lea said.

It is important to get tested for HIV regularly. The sooner the virus is detected, the sooner the next steps can be taken. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, individuals can still receive treatment after testing positive. 

The treatment can slow down and sometimes even prevent the progression of the virus. The Department of Public Health is working to combat the HIV epidemic in Georgia.

“DPH Northwest Health District would love to do more HIV testing and screening at Berry College in the future,” Mamford said. “It is our priority to prevent the incidence of HIV infections in all 10 counties and identify those who are HIV positive, so that we can link them to care and treatment as soon as possible.”

Keep an eye out for future emails from the Health Center regarding more HIV screenings.

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