HIV testing among young adults 15 to 24 years old is dangerously low. 63.9 percent of women and 73.7 percent of men report never having been tested. The main reason: They thought they “were unlikely to have been exposed to HIV,” according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s study. At UT, where the majority of our student population falls within this age bracket, testing is vital.
As young people, we have a responsibility to make sure we’re aware of our status and regularly tested for the safety of our sexual partners. About 1.1 million people in the U.S. live with HIV, and around 166,000 people are unaware. About 30 percent of HIV transmissions are done by those who have undiagnosed HIV.
The reasoning behind being unlikely to contract HIV is so potentially dangerous for many young people. The testing rates for those who have “never been tested for HIV was lower among those who had any HIV risk-related sexual or drug behaviors in the past year compared with those who did not report these behaviors,” Isaedmarie Febo-Vazquez, a CDC researcher and first author of the study, told CNN.
Many people may not be aware of their sexual partners’ status, primarily because it’s not directly obvious from their behavior. HIV risk-related behavior includes having multiple partners, male-to-male sex, sex with an HIV-positive person, using illicit drugs and more. Young people are particularly at risk of having sex with someone who has or does engage in sexually risky behavior. If you are having sex, you should be getting tested.
University Health Services provides STI testing, where students can schedule usually same-day or next-day appointments online. Students can select what tests they want to receive based on concerns or symptoms to alleviate multiple-testing costs. UHS also accepts most forms of insurance.
Many students may not be able to pay or have insurance to cover it. The more STIs one tests for, the more expensive it can be. Some students might not even make the effort to schedule an appointment. However, UHS does have a Get Yourself Tested Fund, which students can apply for despite their insurance status and receive STI testing fully covered. It just takes a simple questionnaire to be considered. Asymptomatic students will be applicable to receive the one-time fund, whereas students experiencing STI symptoms can schedule an appointment.
There are also many sites for free HIV/STI off-campus testing. While some of these locations are closer than others, it’s still off-campus. However, there is AIDS Services of Austin, which has a location on 2906 Medical Arts St., an 18-minute walk from the tower. Students can catch a bus to these places or find one close to where they live.
Not being tested regularly is a dangerous gamble. Even if you don’t think you have HIV, it doesn’t hurt to get tested and know for sure, rather than just think you don’t. Protect yourself and others by knowing your status.
Rose is an English and rhetoric and writing sophomore from The Woodlands. Follow him on Twitter @jeffroses