Wellness Center hosts free HIV testing for students

HIV graphic. - Graphic / Yaz Shaughnessy

While many wouldn’t suspect it, when adjusted for population size, New Jersey has the sixth highest rate of HIV in the nation, with 467.8 cases per 100,000 people in the population. 

To combat this, as well as the fact that about 13% of HIV-positive people are unaware of their own status, Rowan’s Wellness Center held a free testing clinic on Tuesday, March 26 for students with their partner, FamCare. 

The tests were done with a finger-prick blood draw. This type of testing detects antibodies that are released in the body to respond to infection by the virus and results are rapid, usually within a few minutes or less. 

Susan Miller is the nursing supervisor for FamCare.

“The instant tests people are walking out of here 30 seconds after they do a finger stick, so that’s less traumatic, it’s less invasive…. The only downside to the instant test is that… it’s from three weeks ago back, so somebody comes into here and says, ‘I was really stupid this weekend, you know, test me for anything, everything,’ I can’t give them the answer to the HIV. I always test them because they deserve to know what’s going on in their life. If they wanted to take a script… they want blood work for everything,” said Miller. 

Rapid testing is also available through FamCare every Monday and Wednesday at the Wellness Center, along with getting tested for other STIs if needed.

Miller said that testing used to be done as a mouth swab, but the 20-minute wait for results was often too much for students.

“We would have people literally pacing and sweating and blood pressure going up with that wait because it was just so anxiety productive. So this way, it’s really fast,” said Miller. 

In the event that a student tests positive, the Wellness Center has medications available to help treat and prevent transmission of the disease to others, as well as patient navigators that are present to help students make an appointment with a physician to ensure they are continuing their care and treatment after the point of diagnosis.

There is also crisis counseling available to students for any situation, including testing positive for HIV or any other STI.

Brittany Auleta is the assistant director of well-being programming and communication at the Wellness Center.

“Don’t be nervous because I rather students come and know, and just get peace of mind. We do have our counselors, our crisis counselors are available. If a student does test positive and they’re feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to somebody…  that’s why we do all the STI clinics and things like… It’s okay that you have partners and we understand that, but we want you to know that you have access to to care,” said Auleta.

In the event a student believes they may have been exposed to HIV and wants to prevent contracting the virus, the Wellness Center has medication on hand like PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis. This can also be used for people who are victims of sexual assaults, as they would not know whether or not they had been exposed to any sexually transmitted viruses or pathogens. 

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