Free HIV testing offered in attempt to raise awareness

Rutth Mercado

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Health Fair Final from MWSU Campus Watch on Vimeo.

caption id=”attachment_28113″ align=”alignright” width=”300″]Jesse Velasquez, Wichita Falls Health Department technician, holds an HIV awareness button at the HIV testing booth outside Shawnee Theatre in the CSC on Feb. 12. Photo by Rutth Mercado Jesse Velasquez, Wichita Falls Health Department technician, holds an HIV awareness button at the HIV testing booth outside Shawnee Theatre in the CSC on Feb. 12. Photo by Rutth Mercado[/caption]

In an effort to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS — and living a healthy lifestyle in general— the Wichita Falls Health Department will be in attendance at a health fair on March 3 in the Don Flatt gym from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All screenings for height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, blood glucose, vision, hearing, HIV, STDs, lung cancer, among other disease prevention activities and disease related education are free. There will also be a blood drive, and participants can register as organ/tissue donors.

Robert Leitch, nursing sophomore, said, “Offering free HIV testing on campus is a wonderful idea, as well as informing students about what’s out there, because HIV testing alone gives people a crutch so they don’t have to be tested for everything. What about the rest? Get tested for everything.”

But this isn’t the first health fair on campus. People Respecting Identity Diversity for Everyone, a 50-member student organization, organized a free HIV testing booth on Feb. 10 with the help of the Wichita Falls Health Department.

“It’s interesting to see how people view AIDS and HIV nowadays because now it’s really different, a different time period,” theater freshman and PRIDE president, Christopher Cruz said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1,218,400 people 13 years of age and older are living with an HIV infection, and 12.8 percent of them are unaware of their diagnosis.

Jessie Velasquez, Wichita Falls Health Department technician, said, “Get tested for Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis C, whatever. Get tested for every single thing and if something does occur or come up, it’s okay.”

According to the CDC, about one in four new HIV infections are among people ages 13-24.

Kendal Brinlee, Wichita Falls resident, said, “It’s real. It’s something people don’t want to face because they don’t want to know the answer.”

The CDC informs that today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.

Velasquez said, “Just reminding all of you to please get tested and know your status. The reason you want to do that is because early detection is key. The sooner you catch something, the easier it is to handle or maintain boys and girls.”

World AIDS Day, held on Dec. 1 each year, is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died from HIV. World AIDS Day was the first ever Global Health Day, held for the first time in 1988. The health department offered HIV testing on Dec. 3 last semester in honor of the International Health Day.

Velasquez said, “What’s most important here is your health. Again, we urge you to please get tested. Love yourself enough to know your status.”

To get tested outside of the March 3 health fair, contact the Wichita Falls Health Department.


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