Be smart, get tested

For the approximately 40,000 Americans infected with HIV every year, a single test can provide them with the information they will need to manage the rest of their lives.

Today, Student Health Services and the Tampa Bay Community Event Coalition will be providing free HIV tests to students and staff at SHS from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Laura Rusnak, senior health educator for SHS, said the tests are given out for a special cause.

“This is a special event in honor of World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1,” she said. “We’re offering the testing earlier this year so students can get their results by winter break.”

Rusnak said SHS is providing the building while TBCEC is providing the tests.

“We put our heads together so we can get free testing available a couple of times a year,” Rusnak said.

Senior Alix Lerda said she thinks the offer should help encourage students to get tested.”If it is free, more people are more likely to take advantage of the offer than if they charge,” Lerda said.

Rusnak said the normal price tag of $30 SHS charges can be a big deterrent. However, the paid-for results come back within the day.

“We always have testing, but it’s important to overcome the barrier for cost, which can be a large barrier for college students,” Rusnak said.

Today’s free tests will be oral swab tests, and the results are going to be available on Dec. 6. Students will have to attend a short counseling session before the test is administered.

Lerda said that she hasn’t seen any material advertising the free tests, which may make it harder for students to find out about it.

“I haven’t seen any flyers or anything,” Lerda said. “You have to physically go over there to find out about it.”

She also said she hasn’t been to SHS since she started attending USF, but she’s glad the option for health care is available to her.

“It’s like insurance,” Lerda said. “It’s there if you need it, which is always nice. I do know people that have used it.”

Once students have taken the test, their care continues based on the results they receive. In the case of a positive result, counseling sessions are offered to students through the TBCEC, Rusnak said. Students can also go to SHS to receive a list of resources in the community to help them cope with HIV.

Rusnak also said it’s important for people to get counseling and get the test so they can make more informed choices about their lives.

“I think it’s important for people to know their status and make decisions based on their own health,” Rusnak said. “Making responsible lifestyle choices for whatever they want to do.”

Out of the three years the free tests have been offered, SHS has never received a positive test result.

Lerda thinks people often stereotype college students as having promiscuous or alternative lifestyles.

“I think stereotypes paint college students as having that lifestyle, but everyone’s different and everyone has their own individual risks,” Lerda said. “I figure the students that have been thinking about it will use it.”