ETSU offers free AIDS tests to students

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
To promote awareness of World AIDS Day and increase education concerning HIV/AIDS, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office set up booths on the campus of East Tennessee State University Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., where health department staff offered free AIDS testing to students.
   "We can now give AIDS tests orally - it's a new test, called OraSure, that doesn't require blood, which often causes people to refuse to get tested," said Jamie Swift of the ETRHO, which is housed on the ETSU campus. Swift could not confirm how many students received the free test.
   Fifty-four AIDS cases were reported during 2003 in the region which includes Carter, Johnson, Washington, Greene, Unicoi, Hawkins and Hancock counties, according to Swift.
   "I think we do a good job at making students aware of AIDS," she said. "We work closely with the student clinic and they do a lot of advertising for us. Gary Range, our HIV coordinator, regularly visits classes and talks to students."
   The regional health office also provided a presentation on World AIDS Day Monday morning, and Swift said about 25 people attended.
   The Carter County Health Department did not offer any special presentations Monday; however, Brenda Barnett, registered nurse, said she is always available to give HIV testing to those who need it. "I'm always available. All anyone has to do is call our office and schedule an appointment," she said.
   In Sullivan County, a presentation titled "Global AIDS: From B to Z (Bristol to Zanzibar)" was given in the Monarch Auditorium at Wellmont's Bristol Regional Medical Center from noon to 1:30 p.m. Presenters included Don Minor, HIV survivor, and Mark McCalman, an epidemiologist with the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.
   On Friday, Dec. 5, from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., the Sullivan County Health Department will offer free oral HIV testing at New Beginnings in Johnson City.
   Other parts of the nation also observed World AIDS Day. In Silver Springs, Md. approximately 40,000 people donned red ribbons provided by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International to promote World AIDS Day, according to Reuters.
   In Nairobi, Kenya, thousands rallied and officials announced new initiatives and millions of dollars in new funding to combat the disease that has infected approximately 42 million people and kills more than 8,000 sufferers daily, The Associated Press reported.
   HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a disease that destroys the body's immune system. HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and infected blood or blood products, as well as from mother to infant.
   Women are becoming increasingly affected by HIV. Approximately 50 percent, or 19.2 million, of those infected with HIV or AIDS worldwide are women, according to the Centers for Disease Control.