News brief

Students receive free HIV testing and education

The Whitman-Walker Clinic sponsored free HIV testing and informational seminars Tuesday at the Marvin Center.

Almost 100 students were tested for HIV after an information session that addressed topics ranging from HIV transmission to safe sex.

Results are distributed in person, never over the phone or e-mail, said Walker Chaffin, a Whitman-Walker volunteer. Test results can be obtained by appointment Monday at GW’s Student Health services. A maximum of eight free HIV-related counseling sessions are available through the clinic.

“There is significant medical evidence that shows early, aggressive treatments can reduce the severity of symptoms as the disease progresses,” Chaffin said.

Carmen Shorter, an HIV counselor at Whitman-Walker, said although most people know about the risks that can lead to HIV, they often have trouble believing it can happen to them.

“The most challenging thing for me is when a person leaves a session and I wonder if they will really act on the things we spoke about and make the changes they need to,” she said.

“Often the hardest thing to watch is a person who receives a negative test result, and leaves my office without trying to change the behavior that led him to be tested in the first place,” Shorter said.

Chaffin said the only way to completely avoid sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence. Precautions such as using condoms and avoiding the exchange of bodily fluids can decrease risk of contracting HIV.

“It is safer to have safe, protected sex with 100 partners than to have unprotected sex with one person whom you know nothing about,” Chaffin said.

GW will host another Whitman-Walker session Dec. 1.

-Gayle Horwitz

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