The UA Pat Walker Health Center and the Washington County Health Unit came together Wednesday morning to present the UofA’s first free HIV testing clinic in the Arkansas Union.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and over time can destroy so many of these cells that the body can no longer fight off infections and diseases that can lead to acquired AIDS if treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 406 new cases of HIV and AIDS reported in Arkansas in 2017, a 4.1% increase from 2016, according to the Arkansas Department of Health’s 2017 HIV Surveillance Annual Report.
With a steady increase in sexually transmitted infections in the region, “It makes sense to put this into student’s minds,” said Zac Brown, assistant director of communications for the health center.
“This raises awareness not only to HIV testing but testing in general,” Brown said.
As some people do not even realize their symptoms, the peace of mind that testing can give is important, Brown said.
“I think some people may be a little hesitant, and I think really what they should take away from this is that it is an accessible test that’s being brought to them,” Brown said.
Anusha Bhattacharyya, a freshman, found out about the clinic through a group chat and thinks it’s important for anyone to get tested, she said.
“People should be proud to have themselves tested, instead of spreading something they do not know they have,” Bhattacharyya said.
Bhattacharyya feels that there should not be a stigma around testing and that it should be a point of communication in relationships, she said.
“I think it is important to know, even if you haven’t done anything risky,” Bhattacharyya said.
By using a test that only requires a blood prick and 15-20 minutes for results, students were able to get in and out of the clinic quickly.
Three days after World AIDS Day, honored Dec. 1, the event was a collaborative effort that began this summer when the Washington County Health Unit approached PWHC officials, Brown said.
The organizers had World AIDS Day in mind, but thought it made more sense to have the event on a weekday than on a Sunday, Brown said.
PWHC offers a Get Yourself Tested walk-in testing clinic for chlamydia and gonorrhea — the two most common STIs among college students, according to their webpage.
The GYT Clinic operates out of the health center’s primary clinic and is available when the center is open.