GSA, Hope Health hold free HIV testing

The FMU Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) put together the free HIV testing, sponsored by Hope Health, for students in housing this past November.

Normally held by Housing and Residence Life, this has been the first year that testing has been sponsored by GSA.

FMU has held HIV testing for a few years now, and there always seems to be a good turnout of people. More females appeared compared to men.

“I think it’s completely necessary because everyone needs to know their status,” Mary McKnight, freshman art major, said. “No matter whether they’re embarrassed or whether it’s a pride thing, no matter what, it’s still your health. Just because someone can’t afford [testing] doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right to know what’s going on.”

GSA gave students pamphlets about safe sex and spreadsheets informing them about the number of people who are living with HIV and the areas that have the highest numbers. According to the information provided by Hope Health, South Carolina has the 13 highest AIDS rate in the United States. Columbia, S.C., is ranked 11 on the Metropolitan Areas. The Pee Dee area has the highest number of HIV/AIDS and STDs cases, with 5,163 living with HIV and 2,817 living with AIDS reported.

Students also learned the importance of safe sex and tips to make sure that they stay HIV negative when engaging in sexual activities. GSA said it’s important to use new condoms for each sexual act, whether it’s oral, anal or vaginal. Also, using a water-based lubricant rather than oil-based lubricants can keep condoms from breaking. The most important tip for staying safe is communicating with your partner. Partners should be sure to talk about sex before planning on having it, make sure each person knows his or her limits and those of his or her partner and choose partners wisely.

Even moving away from the topic of sex, HIV can still be transmitted other ways, such as sharing needles from drugs, tattoos and piercings. If someone plans to get a tattoo or piercing, he or she should know if the person doing the job is using a clean, sterilized needle, fresh out of a sealed pack.

Students were also told to look out for any signs or signals if they have been sexually active that may indicate that they might have an infection. For women, signs include any unusual discharge in texture and smell, pain in the pelvic area, burning or itching around the genitalia, bleeding that is not from a regular period and pain during intercourse. For men, the primary indication of an infection would be a drip or discharge from the penis. Both men and women may see bumps or blisters, burning and pain when urinating, the need to urinate more frequently, itching around sex organs, flu-like feelings or swelling in the groin. If any of these symptoms come about, it is important to go to a clinic or to a doctor immediately.

Students are encouraged to be tested yearly, even if they have not been sexually active, because STDs and HIV can be transmitted multiple ways. Some STDs may lay dormant in a person’s body for months, even years before any symptoms start to show. Getting tested not only gives less chances of getting STDs and HIV but also gives a greater peace of mind.