Clinic offers free HIV testing

Clinic offers free HIV testing

Tammy Bellish, assistant facilitator at the Comprehensive Care Center in Youngstown, tests a blood sample for HIV. Photo by Alexis Burger/The Jambar.

More than 1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of these individuals, 1 out of 5 are unaware of their status.

The Youngstown State University Student Health Clinic offers free HIV testing, and nurse Wendy Thomas encourages all to take advantage of the confidential test.

“Numbers have been down recently, and that’s concerning me,” she said.

Tammy Bellish is a YSU senior who works as an assistant facilitator at the Comprehensive Care Center in Youngstown. She volunteered at Wednesday’s Student Health Clinic testing, primarily because of the seriousness of the issue. 

“HIV can lay dormant for a long period of time without any side effects,” Bellish said. “You can never get rid of HIV. It is a long-term terminal illness, and eventually it does progress into AIDS.”

HIV can be transmitted through injection drug use, blood transfusions, breast-feeding and sexual contact.

Bellish said that the infection does not develop into AIDS until the T-cell count drops below a certain number. Advances in medical research have made it possible to live with HIV and maintain a normal life expectancy.

“It isn’t a death sentence anymore,” Bellish said. “Today, you can live a healthy, normal life.”

The entire testing process takes about 20 minutes. As the individual enters the clinic, he or she will be directed to one of the back rooms. There, he or she will meet with a facilitator from the Comprehensive Care Center.

The test facilitator will ask the individual if he or she wishes to be anonymous. If so, the consent form must be signed with only an “X.”

Even if the individual wishes to disclose his or her name, however, all information will remain confidential.

The facilitator will then ask several questions about past behavior that may have put the individual at risk for developing HIV.

The individual is then asked to swab his or her mouth. After the allotted time, a line will appear on the test strip if he or she is HIV positive.

Even a faint line could mean the individual has HIV. If there is no line, he or she has tested negative.

HIV takes about three months after engaging in high-risk behavior to be detected.

Bellish encouraged those who are sexually active to get tested regularly.

“Without discriminating, college students or anyone having multiple sex partners and neglecting to use any protection is at very high risk,” she said.  

1 comments Dan Beish Tue Jul 3 2012 19:00 Be responsible Get tested.