Stamps initiative promotes HIV testing

Photo by Sho Kitamura

Stamps Health Services, along with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, hopes to increase HIV awareness by conducting a free HIV testing promotional event on Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Piedmont Room of the Student Center.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) continues to be a major issue, specifically in Georgia. According to the CDC, Georgia ranks fifth among all states for highest number of HIV diagnoses in 2011 with 2,522.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that young people aged 13 to 24 account for 26 percent of all new, HIV, diagnoses in 2010. This is a serious matter as individuals infected by HIV can eventually reach HIV Stage 3 or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

A 2002 CDC report also stated that the “epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is college students.” The report stressed the prevalence of HIV infections on college campuses.

“HIV tends to be stigmatized so one of the great things about a big testing event is it really removes stigma around HIV testing and normalizes it for people. Testing should be routine and normal,” said Michelle Segall, a Health Educator in Tech’s Stamps Health Promotion.

Stamps believes the free testing event will remind students how important prevention is.

“The event reminds people that anyone who is sexually active is at risk,” Segall said. “Last semester in April, we did chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and it was a urine-based test so people had to be contacted later with their results. So HIV testing is nice because it’s convenient.”

Stamps is also aware that most college students, including Tech, do not get tested.

“We also see nationally that only 28 percent of college students report being tested for HIV.”

The event incorporates novel technologies that make HIV results easily accessible.

“Something novel about the event is how quickly people receive their results. It’s literally a little finger prick and the technology can get you your results within five minutes,” Segall said.

Students engaging in sexual activity should get tested as they are at risk for getting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STI).

“Anybody who is sexually active is at risk for STI transmission. 64 percent of college students are sexually active and the only way to know for sure if you have a STI is to be screened,“ said Segall.

Stamps Health Promotion is conducting the free HIV testing event as part of a Get Yourself Protected (GYP) campaign. This year, GYP replaced Get Yourself Tested because Stamps wanted to emphasize the importance of prevention for STIs.

The campaign hopes to directly impact Tech students while emphasizing Stamps Health Promotion’s mission statement.

“The mission of Stamps health promotion is to empower students to make healthy decisions with regards to whatever behaviors they choose to behave in. We want to educate students and empower them to make decisions that are right for them,” Segall said.