Monday, January 21st, 2019

USM observes World AIDs Day

Posted on December 10, 2014 in News
By USM Free Press

By: Alex Huber

Last week by joint efforts from the Portland and Gorham Well and the multicultural center and health services, free HIV screening tests were made available to all students. These tests were given out as part of USM’s recognition of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1st. In addition to the free testing, educational events took place on Monday.

USM went beyond a single day of observance. The screening tests were available all week. The test kits used are newer and less invasive than a standard blood test, which is what has been used in the past for HIV testing at health services.

These new tests use a cheek swab and allow results to be seen in less than half an hour, a major improvement over the blood tests. With the blood test, a student wouldn’t have their result on the same day. With the rapid test, they get them before leaving.

These free tests were given to USM by Maine’s Department of Health Services. In total the university received 125 tests. In addition to the tests, the department also provided training to the health services staff.

Unlike normal health services procedures, these test, as part of World AIDS Day, were anonymous. Over the course of the week nearly 40 of these free anonymous tests were administered. Lisa Belanger, the director of health services, was pleased with the number considering that it was the week after break.

“When you’re providing an event on the Monday after a four day break, it’s challenging,” said Belanger.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, there were 39 new cases of HIV in Maine during 2013. This brings the total number of people diagnosed to 1706 people living in Maine with HIV. Belanger said that that number was lower than the nationwide average.

“If you compared us to other states of a similar population like South Dakota,we have relatively low rates,” Belanger said.

One in seven people who have contracted HIV are unaware of their disease. Belanger urges students who think they may need an HIV test to contact health services. Though the tests were intended for this past week, Belanger has said that the tests will remain anonymous and free until supplies run out.

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