Federal government, Kent State recommend HIV tests

Jackie Valley

Get tested for HIV to confirm you do not have the disease, not to see if you do have it.

That is the attitude Sarah Hallsky, a graduate assistant in the Office of Health Promotion, wishes more college students would adopt.

Hallsky said the American College Health Association estimates that one in 500 college students are HIV positive.

According to a New York Times article from Friday, the federal government now recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 has at least one HIV test and individuals who engage in high-risk behaviors get tested annually.

Although the test is voluntary, The New York Times reported that patients are still asked for permission to test for the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advocated the removal of consent forms and extensive counseling prior to each HIV test.

Hallsky said college students tend to engage in many high-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse and multiple sexual partners, so it is important to get checked for sexually transmitted infections, even if symptoms are not immediately obvious.

However, Hallsky said many college students never get an HIV test.

“It’s not that students don’t understand the severity of HIV. It’s just that students don’t think they will get it,” she explained.

According to the 2004 National College Health Assessment, 0.7 percent of Kent State students reported HIV infection.

Kent State offers free and anonymous HIV tests once per month in addition to confidential HIV tests by appointment every day.

Dianne Kerr, associate professor of health education and promotion, who has been working in AIDS education and prevention for 20 years, agrees that it is wise for all college-age students to be tested for HIV because if the test is positive, they can protect their partners and begin medications.

“I think people need that human contact and comfort if they are positive (for HIV),” she said, adding there have been many suicides based on false positive results.

Students said they support getting tested for the disease.

“I don’t think recommending testing is a bad idea because it is not encouraging sex,” said Chris Selzer, sophomore electronic media major.

Junior economics major Ali Zuberi supports HIV testing for people between the ages of 13 and 64, although “13 year olds are a little young,” he said.

Instead, Zuberi explained, everyone 18 years or older should be tested because individuals can then give honest consent without entering into conflicts between parent-child rights.

The next free and anonymous HIV testing session is Oct. 19 at the DeWeese Health Center. Students can make appointments by calling the Office of Health Promotion at (330) 672-2320.

Contact news correspondent Jackie Valley at [email protected].