UI officials push new HIV test

BY CINDY GARCIA | MARCH 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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On the heels of what studies note as a more promiscuous week of a college student’s year, University of Iowa officials are asking students to swap some spit — this time with Student Health and Wellness.

Although UI students are having fewer sexual partners than previous years, sexually transmitted diseases are still a prevalent concern for officials, especially after spring break, according to the National College Health Assessment.  Several academic studies have linked spring break traveling with increased alcohol use and sexual partners.

And next month, officials are hoping students will take the next, responsible step for their sexual health with a new HIV testing option. The department is running a Get Yourself Tested campaign throughout the month of April, which is STD Awareness Month.

While other HIV tests rely on blood samples, but the new alternative can use saliva to check for the disease. The new one is available for $25 and is relatively accurate and pain free. Results are available within a single visit.

“We received additional funding this year, so that we can offer free HIV testing to the first 100 people who make an appointment,” said Rebecca Don, a UI Behavioral Health Consultant, who is also overseeing the GYT campaign on UI’s campus, in an e-mail. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea testing will also be totally free to everyone throughout the month of April.”

Don said the department has tried to eliminate barriers for students, both by eliminating costs and making the process easier.

“This year students will also be able to make appointments instantly, right at the table, which should really help get people in for testing,” Don said. “Students are busy, so this way they will already have an appointment scheduled as soon as they walk away, and calling to make an appointment won’t be one more thing to have to remember,” Don said.

Student Health will be out at selected locations around campus every Monday in April offering prizes and information on sexual health and testing.

Similar campaigns are simultaneously occurring in different areas of the nation.

The University of Missouri has used social media, posters, t-shirts, bus wraps, and free or reduced testing as vehicles for its own push.

“At the University of Missouri we have integrated the GYT branding into our culture and traditions,” said Heather Eastman-Mueller, a Health Educator at the University of Missouri, in an e-mail. “At our sporting events, one side of the bleachers of students yells ‘M-I-Z’ and the other side of the stands replies ‘Z-O-U.’ We changed this to be MIZ GYT. This has really allowed our students to turn a once-stigmatized event — seeking STI testing — into a normal, preventative activity.”

She also said Missouri has seen positive results with the GYT campaign, which encourages them to continue campaigning.

UI freshman Emily Sula said the campaign and the new test would be helpful. She said she believes a rapid HIV test will motivate people to make an appointment.

“If people get tested then it’ll be safer and healthier for everyone's partners and themselves,” she said.

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