University students making difference for World AIDS Day

11/30/2007 8:00:00 AM

With more than 7,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nevada, 60 School of Public Health students at the University of Nevada, Reno are looking to educate and inform the community on World AIDS Day, Saturday, Dec. 1 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the grand ballroom at the Joe Crowley Student Union.

This year's event is free and will offer confidential HIV testing; educational opportunities; games; food and entertainment provided by local bands Sol Jibe and Keyser Soze. There will also be an opportunity to win great prizes such a season ticket to Mt. Rose ski resort.

"This year marks the 26th anniversary of the first diagnosed case of AIDS in the U.S.," Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Kristen Clements-Nolle said. "Approximately one-quarter of all people living with HIV do not know they are infected. There are several new treatments available and positive things that can be done early on if the infection is identified."

"When it comes to HIV/AIDS, prevention is key," Sandi Noffsinger, graduate student and public health club president said. "We want to encourage high school students, college students, young alumni and community members to come to the event and get tested."

Six to eight private testing rooms will be available at the event. Testing is being organized by the Washoe County District Health Department's sexual health program.

"A majority of today's college students have never lived in a world without HIV," Gerold Dermid, health educator with the Washoe County Health District said. "It is highly important for college students to get tested since more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections occur in people under the age of 25."

Two types of HIV tests will be offered: a blood test that also allows for syphilis testing and an oral test.

"We are offering syphilis testing with the HIV test because it is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) that is on the rise in Nevada, particularly in Clark county," Dermid said. "It is critical for people to become aware of their status and seek the assistance they need in order to live a longer more healthy life."

Both tests will take no longer than five minutes and are administered by certified, professional nurses who are trained in risk reduction. Counseling services will be available on site and, if necessary, referrals can be made to community-based agencies that provide services to individuals in need.

"Our goal is to facilitate the discussion of healthy sexual and drug use practices," Noffsinger said. "We hope to break down some of the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS and make a real difference."

In addition to the testing being offered at the Dec. 1 World AIDS Day event, the University's Student Health Center is also offering free HIV, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea testing to all University students during the entire month of December.

Community agencies participating in the event include: the Washoe County Health District; the Nevada State Health Division, Northern Nevada HOPES; Nevada AIDS Foundation; A Rainbow Place; Nevada Urban Indians; Nevada Hispanic Services; ACCEPT; ONE Campaign; Planned Parenthood; and Latino Pride

World AIDS Day co-sponsors are the College of Health and Human Sciences School of Public Health; Associated Students of the University of Nevada; and the Joe Crowley Student Union.

"HIV/AIDS is an issue and disease affecting Nevada," Clements-Nolle said. "We need remember those living with the disease, build awareness around the issue, mobilize politically, educate the public and keep working."

She added, "HIV/AIDS is very complicated. It touches on several health domains; for example physical, behavioral, social, and economic health. We must work to intervene at the individual level, the community level and the larger social-political level."


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