Indiana University’s commitment to student success is grounded in equipping students with the resources they need to succeed in today’s globally interconnected world. These resources include those that promote students’ safety and well-being.
That’s why IU Bloomington culture centers, in partnership with Positive Link, are coordinating free HIV testing events beginning in September. While the event is held in a public place to increase visibility and decrease the stigma associated with sexual health, all identifying information and testing records are kept strictly confidential.
“As an institution of higher learning, we believe it is our responsibility to amplify a message for better HIV prevention and treatment on college campuses. Providing free testing is an important part of this mission,” says James C. Wimbush, vice president for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership.
Globally, 1.3 million people were newly infected with HIV as of 2022. In Indiana alone, there are 13,900 people infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the same time, 17 percent of Hoosiers with the virus are unaware of their status, which means they aren’t getting the care and treatment they need.
This reality underscores the continuing need to educate, inform and raise awareness about HIV in Indiana, says Bruce Smail, director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and special assistant to the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Visibility and awareness indeed matter,” says Smail. “It can literally save lives. Much has transpired since the early days of the 1980s when researchers first identified the virus. Still, people ages 13 to 34 account for more than 57 percent of all new HIV diagnoses.
“Millions of lives have been saved due to HIV treatment, improved access to testing, activism and new prevention options. Today, around 39 million worldwide live with HIV. Of that figure, nearly 30 million are on treatment. That’s why testing is so important,” Smail adds.
According to the CDC, widespread misperception about one’s risk of infection is among the greatest barriers to advancing prevention, treatment and care among college and university students.
Complicating the picture is that many college-age students experience a newfound sense of independence and invincibility at college that can distort their perceptions of what sexual behaviors are considered high risk. Through a partnership with IU Bloomington’s cultural centers and Positive Link, Indiana University aims to raise awareness about HIV and provide all students with access to testing services, information and treatment.
Testing dates will occur one Wednesday each month from 5 to 7 p.m. at the following IU cultural centers. HIV tests are done with blood from a finger prick; results are ready in 30 minutes or less. All services provided are free. No insurance is needed.