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LGBTQ Center offers free, anonymous HIV testing

Through AIDS Project RI, LGBTQ Center provides another option for testing outside of Health Services

On Feb. 8, the LGBTQ Center, in partnership with AIDS Project RI, offered free, anonymous HIV testing to Brown community members.

The center started the initiative Fall 2013 when Program Director Kelly Garrett served on a committee organized by APRI that brought many different Rhode Islanders together to discuss ways to increase access to HIV education, prevention and testing, Garrett said.

“One important aspect of HIV prevention is making sure people know their HIV status so that they will not inadvertently spread it to someone else,” Garrett said.

APRI aims to raise awareness among college students about HIV testing and let them know how they can easily determine their status. Testing takes about 20 minutes, and students are informed of their status immediately after. If a student tests positive, they are referred to Miriam Hospital for a 10-day further testing process. APRI works with the student throughout those 10 days and immediately connects them to medical assistance, said Executive Director of APRI Stephen Hourahan.

Overall, men who have sex with men have the greatest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, as anal sex is the leading mode of the disease’s transmission, Hourahan said.

APRI recommended developing outreach programs to college campuses to provide access to free, anonymous testing, and asked the LGBTQ Center at Brown to participate, Garrett said. “We thought it was a great opportunity to make HIV testing as accessible as possible to students, giving them an additional option for where they can go for testing,” Garrett said.

The LGBTQ Center offers free testing at least twice each semester, and APRI holds weekly testing events not far from campus. Health Services also offers free confidential testing every week by appointment.

The main difference between the center’s testing and that offered at Health Services is that the center offers anonymous testing while Health Services offers confidential testing, according to Health Services. When a student goes to Health Services for a test they sign in as a patient and the test results become part of their medical record.

In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the test providers from APRI are bound to comply with HIPAA guidelines. The students getting tested meet with an APRI test provider and all information discussed remains between the student and the test provider. Results are not recorded with a name attached in any location. HIPAA guidelines also restrict a parent’s access to their child’s medical information without their permission. However, private insurance companies sometimes notify the subscriber — often parents — as to what tests are done for covered individuals.

Testing has become a regular part of primary health care screenings at Brown, and many students are comfortable going to Health Services for their testing, Garrett said, adding that comfort levels vary from person to person. Nonetheless, the program continues to be relevant to the LGBTQ Center because some students may feel more comfortable going into the center to get a test, she added.

Brown was also just beginning to provide free, confidential testing in 2013 when the center began the program. Previously, they provided confidential testing with a cost.

According to University Health Plans, Brown Health Insurance covers most approved AIDS medication, but experimental drugs are not covered under the plan.

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