CU students had mixed reactions to the recent recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make HIV testing routine, but all said they would want to know their own HIV status.
On Sept. 21 the federal government recommended that HIV testing be a routine procedure for all Americans age 16 to 64, which would significantly change the current policy that recommends only those in high-risk groups be tested regularly for HIV.
If the recommendation is followed, everyone would be offered the opportunity to be tested whenever they get a physical at a doctor’s office or go to an emergency room, said Jonna Flemming, coordinator of the Sexual Health Education Program at Wardenburg Heath Center, where CU students currently can go to get tested for free.
Flemming said she wasn’t sure how the current HIV testing program at Wardenburg would change if the new policy were adopted.
“The announcement came out last Thursday, so we aren’t sure what’s going to happen at Wardenburg. We would like to expand our current HIV testing clinic, but that’s dependent on funding,” Flemming said.
Wardenburg already offers free testing to any CU student who wants it, and tests “about 600 to 800 students a year,” Flemming said. She also said she could not disclose how many of those students test positive for HIV.
In the U.S., 25 percent of HIV-infected people don’t know they’re infected, Flemming said. She also explained that people who discover their infections tend to reduce high-risk behaviors that could spread the disease to others.
“People who are infected could get treated earlier and start protecting their partners,” Flemming said.
Laura Sullivan, a senior integrative physiology major, said that knowing about HIV status is a good thing, but she said she doesn’t think HIV testing should be mandatory at all.
“As far as keeping a hand on the health status of people I think it’s a good idea, but what’s the cost?” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the test could be invasive, especially if needles are used, and would rather keep it optional.
Flemming said another problem that could arise from widespread HIV testing is that the demand for treatment would increase while resources are limited.
Money to help with care is getting smaller and smaller as the federal government cuts funding to treatment programs, Flemming said. But more testing would mean more people will know they have HIV and seek treatment, she added.
“They want to test more people, but we need the money to pay for care if people are going to be diagnosed,” Flemming said. “It would be frustrating to know you have something and not be able to get care for it.”
Sophomore theatre major Meghann Darby said routine HIV testing is a “great idea,” and that she wouldn’t mind being tested at her doctor’s office.
“It makes so much sense,” Darby said of the CDC’s recommendation.
Darby, who has never been tested for HIV, said that she would be nervous while she awaited the results of the test, but not too much.
“I wouldn’t be super nervous because I know I’m not high-risk,” Darby said.
Darby also compared HIV testing to any other routine test in which the chances of receiving a positive diagnosis is small.
Wardenburg’s free and confidential testing is available during the fall and spring. Students can call (303) 492-2030 to set up an appointment.
Free testing is funded by UCSU through student fees and is not limited to students in high-risk groups, Flemming said.