There are 4.2 million people living with HIV in the world, and 3.2 million of those people are teenagers under the age of 15. On Friday, Sept. 21, the College hosted the first of many free HIV screenings to promote HIV awareness and prevention through the free screenings.
When asked why it is important for students to get tested, Janice Vermeychuk, associate director of the office of Health Services, said, “It helps identify persons with previously unrecognized HIV infection and links them to clinical and prevention services. Testing further reduces sexual and perinatal transmission of HIV.”
People with recognized HIV can gain years of life if the infection is detected early and treated right away. The HIV screening at the College is done by Rodney Kobylarz, certified STD/HIV counselor of the Hamilton Township Department of Health.
HIV testing is used to find antibodies that the body gives off in order to fight the HIV infection. Antibodies usually develop within three months after intercourse, but sometimes it can take up to six months. Students who are tested after recent exposure should get retested after three months because antibodies do not develop right away.
“At this time, the test being used is ‘OraSure,’ which requires a gentle swabbing of the inside of your mouth. Test results take two weeks,” Vermeychuk said. The most rapid form of HIV testing uses a finger prick and results are obtained within thirty minutes. However, this form of HIV screening is not available to the College at this time. HIV testing can be done at home, but should be confirmed in a clinical setting.
Research has shown that the best methods for prevention are abstinence, sexual activity with a monogamous partner who is not infected, or latex condoms. HIV can be transmitted through mucous membranes, or moist skin found in openings of the body, through acts like oral, vaginal and anal sex. Aside from sexual activity, HIV can be transmitted during pregnancy, delivery, breast-feeding and the sharing of needles or other fluid-related equipment.
“Hopefully students change the behaviors that place them at risk for HIV so they will not need another test. Students who engage in any of these behaviors or are at risk through occupational exposure should be retested at least three months after the last episode of an at-risk episode,” Vermeychuk said.
According to statistics from the College, last year 405 tests were performed.
“It’s important to get tested because if you’ve been sexually active from past relationships, you can never be completely sure if you’ve been exposed, and you would not want to give HIV to your new partner,” said an anonymous couple. HIV testing at the College is very private, so students do not have to worry about anybody else knowing that they were tested or of the results from the test.
“I never really thought about HIV testing until I found out the College was offering it,” the anonymous couple said.
The screenings will occur every other Friday throughout the year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Health Services in Eickhoff Hall. Appointments for testing are not necessary.
Further information about the College’s HIV testing dates can be found at tcnj.edu/healthservices.
Additional information from cdc.gov