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Free HIV testing provided on World AIDS Day
Kylie Tielke
Antelope Staff

Last Tuesday UNK recognized World AIDS Day to educate students and prevent occurrences of the prevalent disease throughout the world—HIV. World AIDS Day is held Dec. 1 every year to recognize those with the disease and to prevent and educate those at highest risk for infection—college students.

During the day, the UNK health center provided students with free testing for HIV. According to Cindy Schultz, associate director of UNK Health Center, the Nebraska AIDS Project came to campus on Tuesday and used the space at the health center to do the free testing.

We had about 25 people do the testing,” Schultz said. According to Schultz, one in five people who test positive for HIV are unaware that they have the disease. “There are no early symptoms of HIV. Some people may have symptoms like mild flu symptoms, but then there may be no other symptoms for years— which is why it is good to get checked,” Schultz said.

“The earlier we have a diagnosis, the better for treating. This is crucial in preventing the spread and saving others from contracting it,” Schultz said.

However, if you missed the testing on AIDS Day, Schultz said you may still be tested. “At the Health Center we do HIV testing all the time, and it is free and anonymous.”  

In Nebraska, many individuals are unaware that HIV is a problem throughout the state, but according to Schultz, there are 120 new cases of HIV in Nebraska every year. In Nebraska alone, there are currently 1,800 to 2,000 HIV positive individuals receiving active treatment to manage the disease. On a larger scope, Schulz said that in the United States alone, every 9.5 minutes, another person is infected.

“If you are sexually active and have new partners, you can be proactive in wearing condoms, but it is always good to be checked. The test is simply a small prick to the finger for a blood sample,” Schultz said.
The office of multicultural affairs sponsored an AIDS presentation to continue awareness that night.

“We had about 25 people at the event. The event was to educate the students about HIV and about the history and the treatment. We also had a speaker from Nebraska with AIDS who spoke about the stigmas he has faced,” Theresa Harrison, director of Conrad Hall said. According to Harrison, a real person who you could actually touch and hug brought the reality of the disease to the audience.

This is the first year that UNK has recognized World AIDS Day on campus. In the future, Harrison said, they hope to do more as college students are those who are at the highest risk.

“We want to educate early in order to make young people more aware of their sexual habits,” Harrison said.

The theme this year for World AIDS Day was Universal Access and Human Rights.
However, Harrison said there is not universal or equal access for AIDS drugs. “Most individuals who are taking medication for the disease take between five to 12 pills a day, and some pills cost up to $1,000.”
 “We’re in a position where we can make a difference and we can advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves,” Harrison said.
According to Schultz, researchers are working on a vaccine for HIV, and they have found one. The vaccine currently is only 30 percent effective which is not yet enough to be marketed.
“It is great to actually have reached this point, and this definitely gives us reason to be hopeful in the future,” Schultz said.


Video by Eric Reitcheck
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