Although HIV often can seem like a topic easier to avoid than to address, the issue specifically is something college-aged students should start becoming more aware of, according to a recent study.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday, HIV infections have increased 30.8 percent among 20-24 year olds — far more than any other age group.
Kathi Braunlich, communications and marketing manager for Olin Health Center, said the student health clinic has seen a drop in testing throughout recent years.
“As far as HIV goes, it’s against what you would think,” she said. “Over the last few years, the people seeking testing has gone down.”
One of the main demographics the report cited as being at risk for contracting the disease was young gay and bisexual black males, comprising 54 percent of new cases.
Deanna Hurlbert, assistant director of the LBGT Resource Center, said the issue of HIV is something many students aren’t entirely comfortable talking about.
“For most of the folks I know, very few of the students are open to chat about (HIV), and tend not to make it publicly known, unless for activism purposes,” she said. “It’s just not the kind of thing people talk about.”
Hurlbert also said the LBGT center holds a variety of discussions and events throughout the year, including the AIDS in Black America event this Monday, to help students feel more comfortable talking about the disease.
Although the university offers a variety of ways for students to become more aware of the issue and ways to get tested, they have seen a drastic lack of interest in the past. Last year, Olin Health Center offered free walk-in HIV testing in honor of World AIDS Day, but not one student came in throughout the day, Braunlich said.
For Philip Ganz, a recent MSU alumnus and current technical aide at the university, despite not getting tested while he was an undergraduate, the issue of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections was something he was conscious of.
“The opinion was just that if you use protection (and) you use a condom, you’re in the clear,” Ganz said. “Other than that, I don’t think there was much concern.”
Although avoiding testing could be linked to a fear people have about the severity of the disease, for Braunlich, it also represents the place HIV has in society.
“Ten years ago, there was a little more fear and anxiety about HIV,” she said. “Now, for the freshmen we have coming in, (the disease) is something that has always been a part of their life, so they don’t understand its amplitude.”