A couple weeks ago, police arrested a woman who had been loitering around the Cheyney University of Pennsylvania dorms. She was charged for prostitution and afterward told the police that she was HIV positive and had had sexual contact with ten male students. Cheyney University quickly released a statement urging whoever had sexual contact with the woman to receive HIV/AIDS testing.
“Cheyney University takes this matter very seriously,” the statement said. “The University is offering students a wide range of proactive services including but not limited to counseling, transportation to hospitals and educational information as to this health issue.”
Cheyney also said that they have various services in place for HIV awareness and prevention. They have added various programs to keep their students safe, including facilitating meetings with students and representatives from the Circle of Care, a community-based group focused on HIV/AIDS prevention.
So, the question is, are college campuses prepared to take care of students who get infected with HIV?
“I would say yes,” Jennifer Attanasio, the Health educator at University of Southern California’s (USC) Health Promotion and Prevention Services, said.
“Everywhere from counseling endeavors to medical services provision to testing, I would venture to say that most campuses in the country have some resource for that, whether they do in-house provision or [act as] a referral source,” she said.
USC has a comprehensive website with information on Health Promotion and Prevention Services. Its website has a page of information devoted to anonymous HIV testing and counseling. For a 20-dollar lab charge, which is lifted during the month of February, students can get tested and become informed. Attanasio said that USC’s health services are “fee funded for the students.” USC also has a volunteer program that for fifteen years has had students counsel and test other students. This peer resource was the first in the country.
The George Washington University (GWU), in Washington DC, has Student Health Services which supplies students with free HIV testing after paying a visiting fee. The District of Columbia determined that it has the highest number of people with HIV in the country and distributed free HIV tests to clinics throughout the district.
Trey Watkins, the Assistant Outreach Coordinator at GWU’s Student Health Services, said “[HIV] is a concern and should be something that we, as student health centers around the country should be looking at because incident rates among college age students are raising really quickly, it is one of the quickest rising demographics.”
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) also has various student health resources.
“There is a comprehensive range of services available for screening, testing and treatment, whether it is sexually transmissible infections or other medical problems and any student who has a concern should not hesitate to seek evaluation…the ability to get treatment as they need and the confidentiality of that information is available to [the students],” Dr. Wiener, Directory of University of Pennsylvania’s Student Health Services, said.
UPenn’s health services website has various links to testing sites in the area and to information that can keep students safe and healthy. The Office of Health Education at UPenn also has a website with a list of all the free HIV testing opportunities and other activities that students can partake in to stay well, such as flu shot administration, stress relief programs, massages and Reiki, a Japanese healing method.
Columbia University’s Health Services also has extensive services available. With over 100 staff members, Columbia offers its students a variety of workshops on health from Alcohol issues to sexual health. Additionally, “The Gay Health Advocacy Project (GHAP) promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)?people on-campus by providing HIV testing, counseling, and treatment. GHAP staff and volunteers also offer services concerning sexuality, sexual health, and LGBTQ support,” Shachar Gillat, Columbia Health Services manager, said.
USC, GWU, UPenn, Columbia are all members of The American College Health Association (ACHA) and partake in the National College Health Assessment. The ACHA is a non-profit organization advocating college and University health.
“More than 16 million students are currently pursuing higher education at colleges and universities across the United States. These students are in essence, our future – our future leaders in science, technology, education, the environment, and domestic and foreign policy. Ensuring their optimal health is essential to our nation’s welfare,” ACHA said.