HIV testing held for World AIDS Day

By Kasie Von Haden

Lumen Editor

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Dif­ferent Yet the Same student organi­zation brought awareness to World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) by hosting free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests in the Student Devel­opment Center. The tests were performed by Prevention Special­ist Laura Runchey of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW).

According to the AIDS Health­care Foundation website, http://www.aid­, HIV is a virus that “compromises the body’s ability to handle diseases and causes AIDS.” The website also states that because the process from HIV to AIDS is slow, those who are positive for HIV may not show symptoms for up to a decade. HIV can be transmitted through the sharing needles or sy­ringes or by having unprotected sex with someone who is infected. A baby can also receive HIV if his or her mother is infected during preg­nancy or breastfeeding.

Seventeen students (six female, 11 male) were tested, Runchey said.

“We were hoping at least five people would get tested,” said Amezquita-Santos, a sophomore psychology major from Providence, R.I., and president of the Different Yet the Same organization. “So, 17 is a big number; we weren’t expecting that many people.”

The tests that students took were comprised of a series of questions pertaining to the individual’s life­style and a rapid blood test. Results were reading in about 15 minutes, said Runchey.

Runchey, who specializes in HIV and Hepatitis C testing, counseling, referral and education through the ARCW, feels that everyone should be tested at least once during his or her life.

“You don’t know until you get tested,” she said.

Runchey also emphasized the im­portance of college students getting tested.

“Trendwise, we’re getting more HIV positive individuals in the 18-24 age group,” Runchey said. “I don’t know if it because there are more people testing or if more peo­ple are contracting it at that age.”

“College students come from all over and with different back­grounds,” Runchey said. “There are also risky behaviors that students take part in, like alcohol, drugs, and sex. There’s a lot of peer pressure at this age,” she continued.

Amezquita-Santos, whose uncle died from complications of HIV, knows the importance of being test­ed.

“My uncle didn’t know he was positive,” Amezquita-Santos ex­plained. “Just knowing can prevent you from contracting it. You can learn about the steps to take wheth­er you’re positive or negative.”

Though the group was concerned about the number of students that would participate, Amezquita-San­tos feels the testing service was a benefit to students.

“We thought people might be scared to go and get tested and see other people waiting to be tested,” Amezquita-Santos said. “But, we were filling a need that these stu­dents had.”

Linette Dunn, a junior account­ing major from Milwaukee, and vice president of the Different Yet the Same organization, agrees with Amezquita-Santos on the impor­tance of being tested.

“It’s good to know the status of your body and health,” she said. “People can be tested and know they are safe.”

Dennis Damenace, a junior chem­istry major from Manhattan, N.Y., participated in his first HIV test through this event.

“I got tested to make sure my body is safe,” he said. “You’re sup­posed to be safe, and there are ways to treat these diseases in early stages and prevent them from spreading. It should be a regular thing, like going to the dentist.”

“HIV has been put on the back­burner,” Runchey said. “It isn’t be­ing talked about and it seems that people aren’t worried about it.”

There have been10 positive cases of HIV in the La Crosse area this year, Runchey said. This, though, isn’t the only concern.

“HIV isn’t the only thing out there,” Runchey said. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are skyrocketing and these can have just as big of an im­pact.”

Coordinator of Health Services Sue Danielson sat down with Lu­men to discuss the HIV testing that occurred in accordance with World AIDS Day.

“It’s good to bring awareness to the subject,” Danielson said. “Based on the number that was tested in this small school, we know there are students who wanted this service.”

According to the results of the American College Health Associa­tion National College Health As­sessment II (ACHA-NCHA II) sur­vey that is conducted each spring at Viterbo, in spring of this year, 27 per cent of students who took the sur­vey reported being tested for HIV.

Danielson discussed the impor­tance of using protective measures when engaging in sexual intercourse in order to be protected from HIV.

“Abstinence, knowledge, con­doms, and dental dams: these are four basic things people can use to protect themselves,” she said. “When AIDS came out in the 80s, there was a huge push for safe sex,” Danielson said. “Now, you don’t hear about it as much.”

Safe sex concerns, along with HIV and other sexually transmitted dis­eases, like chlamydia and gonorrhea are reasons why it is important to be tested, Danielson said.

“It’s important to know,” Dan­ielson said. “It’s beneficial to know.”


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