Health center offers free HIV tests

Jessica Kalchik and Jessica Kalchik

By Jessica Kalchik
Contributor

Blood, needles, cold exams rooms and high expense are some thoughts that can plague the mind when contemplating getting tested for HIV.
The staff at San Diego City College’s Student Health Services knows that the thought of HIV is frightening enough so they provide free, confidential and needle-free HIV testing in an inviting atmosphere every Monday in the Student Health Services center.
According to Director of Student Health Services at City College, Dotti Cordell, the close-knit staff wants to provide an atmosphere that is more comforting than the standard clinic and let the students know that they are concerned with their health, not their money.
The HIV test is conducted without any blood draw or needles. A special cotton swab is swabbed in the mouth for approximately two minutes, then sent to a laboratory for testing. A week later, individuals return to Student Health Services to obtain their results.
The oral test is just as accurate as blood tests. Included with the testing are free condoms and prevention counseling for those who are interested.
The test is free. The only cost to the students is the time it takes to fill out some paperwork and perhaps wait a few minutes if the line is long.
City College student Justine, who has utilized some of the services provided at the Student Health Center said, “HIV testing is important to everyone, but not everyone can afford to get it done. Because the tests here are free, I think more people will take advantage of a good opportunity.”
Carina Lopez, who works for San Diego Family Care, a non-profit organization that does in-house and community work collaborates with City’s Student Health Services and said the Student Health Service here is more inviting than at other campuses.
Lopez, who has previously worked with organizations such as the San Diego Boys and Girls club as well as on other campuses such as Mesa College, said “this is the best clinic I’ve worked with.”
No appointments are necessary for the testing. They do not want to create any barriers and want to cater to as many people as possible, Lopez said.
According to Lopez, there has been a very good response at City College and she praises Cordell for the high student turnout.
To get students attention, Cordell posts flyers, sends e-mails to teachers and other campus officials asking them to inform their students about the service.
She also does what she calls “sprinkling reminders” around the campus. This involves printing out the time and location of the testing on small pieces of paper and dropping them around campus in hopes that students will pick them up and come in for testing.
While all the methods are effective, Cordell said that “having a visit from a nurse, one on one with the class really motivates the students most.”
According to Lopez, the numbers are steady and there are 40,000 new cases of HIV in the U.S. alone every year. It is estimated that 25 percent of individuals infected with HIV don’t know and could be spreading the virus.
“We are taking this very seriously because no one is immune,” Lopez said.
For more information visit the Student Health Services Center in room A-116. Center hours are, Monday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., and Friday 8. a.m.- 1 p.m., or contact by phone at (619) 338-3450.