Awareness month stresses importance of testing, education
For the past 10 years, the month of December has been recognized as AIDS Awareness Month, with Dec. 1 kicking the month off with World AIDS Day.
This year at CU, the Community Health Education Department and the Sexual Health Education Program hosted a series of events in honor of World AIDS Day that provided information about HIV and AIDS, in addition to providing free HIV testing.
“World AIDS Day is intended to promote AIDS and HIV awareness and to promote getting tested and protecting yourself,” Romero Hairston, a junior anthropology major who volunteered for the event, said.
Richard Varnes, the interim executive director of the Boulder County AIDS Project, said that approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are HIV positive, 25 percent of which are unaware.
“A large number of people are positive and don’t know it,” Varnes said. “People need to be aware of their status; knowledge is power.”
Several students on campus agree that it is necessary for people to know their positive or negative status. Jacob Whitehair, a sophomore psychology major, said that getting tested is a simple and obvious matter of personal health.
“It’s important to get tested so you know how to take precautions to help yourself,” Whitehair said. “And if you do have (HIV), it’s important to know so you don’t spread it to other people.”
Hairston also said that getting tested is vital – if an individual does have HIV, they need to know in order to receive treatment as soon as possible.
“You don’t want to find out you have (HIV) too late,” Hairston said.
Varnes said that if an individual does receive a positive test result, the advice of an infectious disease physician should be sought immediately. He said that the sooner that individual receives treatment, the sooner they can continue on living life normally.
“Once treatment is sought, the chances of living a relatively normal life goes up,” Varnes said.
While the importance of HIV testing is emphasized, people are still shying away from being tested.
Kelsey Bernal, a sophomore studio arts major, said that she has never been tested because she has never been concerned about contracting HIV. She also said that another reason people might be deterred from getting tested is simply because of fear.
“Some people are scared of getting tested,” Bernal said, “No one wants to be told they have any kind of disease, much less AIDS.”
Melissa Rizzuto , a professional coordinator for the Community Health Education Department, said that people are dissuaded from getting tested because of the stigma associated with HIV; HIV is often thought of to be a result of “inappropriate” behavior.
“In society, there’s not a great amount of sex positivity,” Rizzuto said. “Any type of STD is often associated with promiscuity, and that’s not necessarily true.”
Kaela Joseph, a senior psychology major and a coordinator with the Community Health Education Department, agreed that this stigma prevents several people from receiving an HIV test, but encourages people to receive one regardless.
“Everyone who might be at risk should get tested,” Joseph said. “It’s just better to know.”
The Sexual Health Education Program at Wardenburg Health Center offers free and confidential HIV testing for students. To schedule an appointment, call 303-492-2030.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Sara Fossum and firstname.lastname@example.org.