Though students often joke about promiscuity on campus, the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS are very real. But with the help of a new public service campaign called the P2 Initiative, the University’s social scene could become safer for students. The P2 Initiative will consist of a series of advertisements encouraging students to get tested for HIV/AIDS. But the P2 Initiative isn’t enough to combat the threat of HIV/AIDS. The University should provide students with the most efficient testing services available, and students should heed the advice of the P2 campaign and get tested.
According to the World Health Organization, there were 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008. That same year, 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus and there were 2 million AIDS related deaths. Alarmed at these numbers, various University groups are working to promote health on campus. A joint project between University Health Services and the Multi Ethnic Student Association is in the works. Advertisements by the P2 Initiative will feature students with the slogan “know your status.” This project is a further development of the Promiscuity Project sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
It’s a common misconception that HIV and AIDS only affect certain parts of the world or particular cultures — diseases don’t discriminate. It’s encouraging that student groups are tackling the issue. Many students have the impression that because they do not live in an AIDS-prevalent society, they won’t get infected. But unsafe sex on college campuses puts students at risk. Anyone practicing unsafe sex can be infected.
It’s important that students understand that these illnesses affect students and that they can — and should — act to protect themselves and others. The best way for students to stay safe from these diseases is to be aware of their personal health status. It’s not enough for students to assume they don’t have the disease. All students should use the resources available on campus and get tested in order to ensure that illnesses aren’t spread.
But for many students, getting tested for HIV/AIDS can be intimidating. To get tested, students must go to University Health Services and return or call after two weeks for results. UHS also offers sexually transmitted infection screening on a walk-in or appointment basis, with results in two to three days. That testing is available is good, but a two-week wait increases students’ stress over the issue and may discourage them from getting tested.
To make the process less daunting and encourage students’ safety and health, UHS should make rapid testing available on campus. Rapid HIV testing provides results in about 20 minutes. Rapid testing will be provided by the Washtenaw County Health Department on select days in the next few months, but students should have more access to this important resource. And with a premier hospital here on campus, there’s no reason this technology shouldn’t be available at the University — especially considering the positive health effects it would have on students.
Students should take every possible precaution against contracting HIV/AIDS, and getting tested is the first step. The University should work to make rapid testing available on campus, and students should utilize testing options available to them.