World AIDS Day: Free testing, UT awareness event

Free HIV testing and information for students and staff was provided in conjunction with World AIDS Day on Monday.

Dec. 1 is marked World AIDS Day, an internationally recognized day dedicated to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In conjunction with the international day of awareness, the University of Tennessee Center for Health Education and Wellness offered free HIV testing for students, faculty and staff in the John C. Hodges Library.

World AIDS Day is one of the eight global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been observed every Dec. 1 since 1988. The event, held on Monday, is organized annually and aims to help raise awareness.

Testing for HIV is fairly quick and simple. Results from the test and additional consultation if requested were ready for participants within 20 minutes in a confidential area.

Bilqis Amatus-Salaam, the wellness coordinator at the UT, helped coordinate the event.

“For the past few years, the Center for Health Education and Wellness has partnered with the Pride Center to host World AIDS Day,” Amatus-Salaam said, “and we provide free HIV testing through staff and volunteers from the Helen Ross McNabb Center.”

CHEW staff and Pride Center volunteers also provided pamphlets, condoms and stickers for participants. In addition to testing, volunteers informed students of preventative measures to avoid HIV and ways to practice safe sex.

“Students can get tested for HIV and other STI’s anytime the Student Health Center is open,” Amatus-Salaam said. “Really anyone should get tested regardless of their sexual history. HIV has other modes of transmission, so just be sure [to get tested] and know your status.”

All enrolled students who have paid their full university programs and service fees have access to the Student Health Center. Their mission is to “empower all Volunteers to thrive by cultivating personal and community well-being,” which includes sexual health.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone gets tested at least once, regardless of their sexual history. According to the CDC, young people aged 13 – 24 accounted for 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2017. The South accounted for over half of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. that year. However, the overall diagnoses in the U.S. declined 9% in that same year.

Edited by Maddie Torres and Ainsley Kelso

Featured image courtesy of Jack Vaughan