Safer Sex Drive returns to campus, anonymous HIV testing available

 

Nov. 29, 2013

By Amanda Ramirez

 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 1 million Americans living with HIV. More than 250,000 of them do not even know it.

On Tuesday Dec. 3 the PB Poorman Pride Resource Center will host the Safer Sex Drive, an HIV/AIDS awareness and education event, from 12 to 7 p.m. in the Warhawk Connection Center.

In addition to the drive, there will be tabling in the University Center equipped with educational materials and safe sex packages from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on Dec. 2 and 3 in the University Center.

The event is correlated with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. This day is an opportunity for the global community to learn about the advancements in the fight against AIDS.

It also allows people around the world to support those who live with AIDS and commemorate those who have died.

“It begins with education,” senior Sonya King said about HIV awareness. King is an intern for the Pride Center this semester and assisted in the Safer Sex Drive coordination.

The event will feature free, confidential HIV testing using a rapid saliva test. This means no needles and results in about 20 minutes.

Students planning to receive HIV testing should not eat or drink for 25 minutes prior to receiving a test.

The results of a student’s test are not revealed to any one except the recipient and the testing organization, the Brady Street STD Clinic in Milwaukee. It cannot be found in the student’s records, nor will the student’s family or parents be notified of the test.

At last year’s event, 101 students received on-site HIV testing.

The Safer Sex Drive will also feature information and counseling about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Cindy Konrad, LGBT coordinator at UW-Whitewater, said the goal of the event is to create a comfortable, inviting environment to discuss safer sex practices. Konrad said she would like for students at the event to dissociate the awkwardness that students often feel when talking about sexual health.

“I would like for it to be second nature for students to have conversations with potential sex partners about their sexual history and risk factors,” Konrad said.

Despite the significant number of people affected by HIV worldwide, Konrad said it is often not fully explained because of the discomfort people experience when discussing the scary nature of deadly diseases and HIV’s frequent correlation with sex.

“It isn’t just a black disease. It isn’t just a gay disease. It’s a disease that affects everybody,” Junior DeJuan Washington said.

Washington, an intern for the Pride Center, was the main coordinator for the Safer Sex Drive.

Washington said he felt passionate about the event’s purpose because it greatly impacts two communities he belongs to: African American and LGBT.

Washington said education is the biggest take-away from the event, and the HIV testing is a call-to-action for students.

People still perceive HIV the same way it was seen in the 1980s and 1990s Washington said; however, the extensive research and medical advancements are often not discussed.

“People still think it is the death sentence it once was; it really isn’t,” Washington said. “There is medication that can help [those diagnosed] to live a long and happy life.”

Konrad said fear is the main factor that prevents students from being tested or from simply learning about HIV.

“If you are HIV positive, not getting tested is not going to change that. It’s just going to change the care and support that you can access,” Konrad said.

King, Konrad and Washington all stressed the notion of “knowledge as power.” A student that knows their status can seek counseling and medical resources necessary for treatment.

For more information about the PB Poorman pride resource center, visit UC 146 or view their Facebook page featuring more details about the event and other news.

“Get educated. Know your status. Know your partner’s status. Get tested,” King said.

What is AIDS?

According to AIDS.gov, HIV/AIDS, or human immunodeficiency virus, enters the body and then begins to attack key parts of the immune system.

HIV invades t-cells and CD4 cells to make more copies of itself. Then, HIV destroys the healthy cell. Eventually those infected can no longer fight infections or disease because HIV disables the main function of an individual’s immune system.

HIV is most commonly contracted through: sexual contact, injection drug use, occupational exposure and, rarely, blood transfusions and organ transplants.

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