Rainbow Center to offer free rapid HIV tests for students
Published: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 13, 2013 23:10
Tonight the Rainbow Center will be hosting free rapid HIV testing, administered by a health practitioner from the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Tests are offered on a first come, first serve basis to the first six students or faculty members who arrive. Those who are being tested will speak with the health practitioner and answer a number of questions about their concerns, their history and their sexual practices.
The health practitioner will swab the inside of the patient’s cheeks using a technology called OraSure and the patient will find out his or her results within 30 minutes.
Students will be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis C and HIV. The tests for syphilis and hepatitis C involve having a blood sample collected, and tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia require a urine sample. HIV tests use the cheek-swabbing method.
The tests are highly confidential. Whoever receives a test will be given a number 1 through 6 when they arrive at the Rainbow Center. The Rainbow Center will not collect any names or information and its glass windows will be blocked out for additional privacy. However, the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective is required to supply data to the state of Connecticut, so the tests cannot be considered entirely anonymous.
Rapid HIV tests are hosted by the Rainbow Center once a month. After tonight, the next testing date will be Monday, Nov. 18.
Although the tests are hosted by the Rainbow Center, a cultural center known for catering to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, this service is intended for students and faculty of all sexual identities, said Rainbow Center Secretary William Malavé.
“HIV doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation,” said Malavé. “We never know how a student identifies, and we have no way of knowing. Anyone can get tested.”
Malavé says that anyone who has engaged in risky sexual behavior should be tested.
“A symptom might not develop for HIV for years,” said Malavé. “It’s important for people to be aware and take care of their health.”
Malavé wants people to know that the Rainbow Center’s mission includes heterosexual students and faculty. “You don’t have to identify as gay or lesbian to be tested,” said Malavé. “We’re just concerned about the transmission of HIV.”
Students who are not able to be tested at the Rainbow Center tonight will have many other opportunities to be tested on campus.
Every month, Student Health Services offers free STI testing at various sites around campus, including the Rainbow Center, the African American Cultural Center, the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center and the Health Education Office in Wilson Hall.
The next SHS-administered testing will be hosted at the Health Education Office on Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Testing will be done on a first come, first serve basis for 20 students.
According to the Women’s Center student manager, 5th-semester physiology and neurobiology major Chandler Ford, results from these tests are available in less than a month. If a student tests positive, the student will be directed to counseling from the Women’s Center.
Ford said that this service is entirely confidential. A student’s PeopleSoft number will be collected and used in a direct-secure email that will be automatically deleted once it is read.
In the spring semester, SHS and the Health Education Office will team up to host the annual Get Yourself Tested event that provides free STI testing for up to 200 students.
If a student is unable to get tested during a free session, he or she will be able to schedule a private appointment through SHS.
Free safer sex supplies are available at various locations throughout campus, including the Rainbow Center, the Health Education Office and SHS. For more information about safe sexual practices, students can visit any of these locations or their websites: rainbowcenter.uconn.edu, healthed.uconn.edu and shs.uconn.edu.