Student Health Service sees jump in request for HIV tests

The Student Health Service saw a 22 percent jump in students requesting HIV tests this academic year.

Six-hundred-thirty students have been tested for HIV by SHS this academic year, compared to 516 tests over the duration of last year.

University Physician and Medical Director of SHS, Isabel Goldenberg, and the Clinical Program Coordinator, Susan Haney, credited the spike to the increased “awareness in our community of the availability of the test,” in a joint statement.

Goldenberg and Haney declined to release the number of the 630 students that tested positive for HIV. The office does not release the results of any tests performed on campus, they said.

“Tests are done confidentially in the service and anonymously when the program is outside our service,” Goldenberg and Haney said.

When someone is tested, “[SHS] will do education about transmission of the disease and provide support to maintain protective behavior,” Goldenberg and Haney said.

Any student who does test positive is referred to GW Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, part of GW Hospital.

“In D.C., HIV/AIDS is an older epidemic,” said Michael Kharfen, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration. “[It has] very low prevalence in young people.”

Kharfen said the D.C. DOH does not have specific information about HIV on D.C.’s college campuses, but said that most HIV/AIDS in adolescents and college age residents is a result of “age discordancy,” where younger people are having sex with someone significantly older than they are.

GW partners with the D.C. DOH in testing for HIV on campus. The DOH “provides [SHS] with free kits to test our students when they visit our clinic and wish to be tested or when we do free screenings for sexually transmitted infections on campus,” Goldenberg and Haney said.

“The District’s success in expanding routine voluntary HIV testing and getting persons diagnosed earlier with HIV is showing results,” according to the D.C. Department of Health website. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of new cases discovered decreased by 33.2 percent.

“In general, HIV incidence is lower on college campuses than in urban settings,” Goldenberg and Haney said.

As of December 2008, the most recent year available, 16,513 people in D.C. were living with HIV/AIDS. Only 1.2 percent of these residents with AIDS are between the ages of 20 and 29, the closest demographic to the average student at GW. u

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