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U. to offer free HIV testing today

Friday, November 30, 2007

Free HIV testing will be available today in Leung Gallery for all Brown students, faculty and staff as part of an observance of World AIDS Day, which is Saturday.

The event, which has taken place the last two semesters, offers students the opportunity to get rapid HIV testing with results in approximately 20 minutes, said Madeline DiLorenzo ’08, the founder of the Brown chapter of Global Alliance to Immunize against AIDS, which is co-sponsoring the event along with Queer Alliance, Health Services, the Division of Campus Life and Student Services and AIDS Care Ocean State.

“Even if you don’t think you have a risk, it’s good to get tested and find out more information,” DiLorenzo said. “You can see what your peers are doing and talk to more people about how to get more involved.”

Today’s HIV testing, which is performed by AIDS Care Ocean State, includes pre- and post-test counseling so students can evaluate their risks and access support when receiving results. DiLorenzo estimates that the entire process should take about 30 to 45 minutes or less if students come earlier in the day. Testing will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The goal of the event is to encourage students to make HIV testing part of their annual health care, said Chantal Tape ’09, co-president of the Brown GAIA chapter.

Testing at the event could appeal more to students who are not ready to take the responsibility of scheduling regular HIV tests themselves, Tape added.

“I think it’s a more comfortable environment,” Tape said. “It makes it a little bit more accessible to get tested.”

Other local facilities, such as AIDS Care Ocean State and Planned Parenthood, offer HIV testing but typically either charge a fee or can be difficult for students to readily access, DiLorenzo said. Health Services offers HIV testing for $25.

At last fall’s event, GAIA members were forced to turn students away after the tests ran out. DiLorenzo said even if this occurs again, it will only encourage the group to continue offering testing days. GAIA plans to schedule at least one more testing day in the spring semester, she added.

GAIA has acquired 100 HIV tests, which are administered through a finger prick, for this semester’s event. Though Abbott Laboratories has donated the tests in the past, they have since stopped offering free tests to non-profit groups, Tape said. GAIA fundraised approximately $1,100 for the cost of the tests, with contributions from QA, the Office of the President, the Department of Community Health, Health Services and the Division of Campus Life and Student Services.

The Queer Community Committee, a QA subcommittee, played a role in fundraising and advertising for the free HIV testing day, said Alex Morse ’11, the council’s newly elected chair.

QA initially requested funding from the Undergraduate Finance Board for the event but was denied because the UFB designated HIV testing as a student service. QA has co-sponsored the event in the past with GAIA and will continue to do so, Morse said.

Tomorrow GAIA, along with Brown University AIDS Program and Center For AIDS Research, will also host the World AIDS Day Symposium featuring speakers Stephen Lewis, Judy Lieberman and Leigh Blake in MacMillan 117.

Lewis is the former U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and Blake is the founder of the Keep a Child Alive Foundation, with which the Brown chapter of GAIA is affiliated. Lieberman is the director of the Division of AIDS Department at Harvard Medical School.

Each has performed extensive research, advocated or otherwise encouraged awareness of the AIDS pandemic and will be honored at the symposium with GAIA’s Hope is a Vaccine Award.

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