The human immunodeficiency virus knows no race, color, gender, economic background or age. This virus, better known as HIV, attacks cells, and if undiagnosed and untreated, can develop into the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. The only way to know your status is to get tested. Xavier University of Louisiana offers students free, monthly testing on campus. Non-profits like Brotherhood Incorporated work with student health services to provide testing in the four residential halls and outside the University Center.

Despite Xavier’s adherence to Catholic doctrine that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage, Brotherhood Inc. is allowed to test on campus.“Once a month, we come out and bring awareness to the campus. We respect the institution for their beliefs with abstinence; however, we can’t ignore HIV, because it’s growing rapidly,” said Terrence Jones, a prevention specialist with Brotherhood Inc.The most common test is called the rapid test. It’s an immunoassay used for screening, and it produces quick results, in 30 minutes or less. Typically, a technician uses a swab to capture an oral sample or may draw a blood sample.

“If the test comes back negative, and you haven’t had an exposure for three months, you can be confident you’re not infected with HIV. If your test comes back positive, you will need to get a follow-up test, which the testing site will arrange,”according to the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov. “Students are embarrassed to get tested because they don’t want to be judged or have people assume that they have it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Jones explained.Whatis HIVArt

In additional to testing, organizations like Brotherhood Inc. hope to raise awareness about the disease.“Students need to be more educated about this virus because there are other ways to contract HIV than just having sex,” said Mark Johnson, the executive director for Brotherhood Inc.A lot of students are unaware of possible ways to get it, Johnson added. For instance, young women who get hairstyles that require using a hair needle probably don’t know HIV can be transmitted if a stylist sticks a client with an HIV-contaminated needle, Johnson said.And if a student tests HIV-positive, the agency directs the student to the proper medical resource for treatment, which includes a regime of pills, he said.

Desiree Hornsby, a sophomore at Xavier University said she regularly gets tested for HIV and other STDs. “People who are infected with the virus look perfectly healthy and show no signs whatsoever of the illness, and that alone scares me,” Hornsby said. “Knowing my status gives me a peace of mind.”

For more information about Brotherhood Inc., visit the website at www.brotherhoodinc.org; call 504.566.7955; or drop by the office for free HIV testing at 2714 Canal St., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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