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Health & Wellness

Bringing HIV Testing to BU

Student Health Services plans to offer HIV testing as part of routine office visits.

Health Matters

For three days last semester, Student Health Services offered free HIV testing on campus. Because of the positive response, SHS is planning to make HIV testing part of routine office visits beginning this semester.

Approximately 20 students received the free testing, which was offered on November 27, 28, and 30. A tester from the Sydney Borum, Jr., Health Center, a Boston facility that offers medical and counseling services for LGBT youth, administered the rapid finger-stick HIV test. The test took an hour, which limited the number of students who could be tested.

“If you are at a state-funded HIV testing site, spending that much time administering the test is the standard of care,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services. “We didn’t think this initiative would meet all the needs of students who needed to be tested, but it was a good first step.” The results of the test were provided the same day. Students who could not be accommodated that day were provided with a list of other test sites in the area.

In general, only federally funded programs offer free HIV testing, and it’s uncommon for colleges to provide such a service, says McBride, who nevertheless thinks that the tests should be a routine part of health care for college students.

“There is an ongoing need for this testing. Students come in all the time interested in their sexual health and sexually transmitted infection testing,” he says. “HIV testing is a part of talking about sexual health and what sexually transmitted infections you are at risk for. It’s something we need to be doing.”

SHS worked with Anni Baker (CAS’06, SPH’07) from the School of Public Health to organize the testing days. The event was sponsored by the Wellness and Residential Education Office and Project Hope, the Community Service Center’s HIV/AIDS awareness program. Because of staff limitations, in the future SHS will send the blood drawn for the HIV test to a lab for analysis. The student would then return several days later for the results.

“I think this testing is important for us to offer. I want students to know this is something we care about, that is relevant to their lives,” says McBride. “As experts in college health, this needs to be on our radar screen.”

For more information, contact Student Health Services at 617-353-3575.

Meghan Noé can be reached at mdorney@bu.edu.