Kent State resumes free HIV testing for students and staff

Clara Wicinski, Reporter

Kent State of Well-Being (KSOW), a department under Recreation and Wellness Services, prioritizes an important aspect of HIV testing for participants: confidentiality.

Participants of the testing service are not known by name, only a birth date. Sierra Baker, KSOW’s coordinator of student’s health and well-being, said she wants to maintain the aspect of confidentiality because of the stigma and fear that surrounds STIs.

“There is still a stigma with HIV, so we want it to be as anonymous as possible,” Baker said. “You get signed up by your date of birth, you could give me a wacky date of birth and I wouldn’t know.”

A few drops of blood collected through a finger prick is all that is needed to complete testing. While the scheduling is handled by KSOW, the actual testing is conducted by the Community Aids Network Akron Pride Initiative.

The Akron-based nonprofit administered testing at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center five times during the fall semester, with more dates to come in the spring. Baker hopes students’ urge to get tested increases.

“I feel like we’re reintroducing ourselves to the campus and letting people know we’re here,” Baker said. “We’re doing programming again, we’re doing things in person again and HIV testing is back on campus again.”

Reece Olson, a sophomore hospitality and event management major, takes STI testing very seriously.

“I try to get tested at least every month,” Olson said. “If I can’t do it every month, at least every three months or a couple times a year.”

Olson praised Kent State for conducting the HIV testing and taking sexual health and protection seriously, rather than ignoring it.

“It’s already annoying that we have to pay to get tested and then also pay for medication on top of that,” Olson said. “A lot of college kids don’t have the money to do that right now. It’s a very good thing that we have here.”

Baker said she believes getting tested should be important to individuals who are sexually active, especially because individual’s symptoms concerning HIV can appear as flu-like symptoms.

“Some people have no symptoms at all,” Baker said. “The only way to know for sure, is to get an HIV test.”

Students and staff who are in need of HIV testing can call KSOW’s office at (330)-672-5769 to schedule an appointment.

Clara Wicinski is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].