Thirty people took advantage of free testing for HIV Tuesday and Wednesday in the health promotions office in Loftin Student Center, and no one complained about testing procedures or a lack of privacy, the nurses who staff the office said.
The new health promotions office in Room 150 is on the south side of the building where students flock to study, hang out and dine in the cafeteria. This office replaced the college health center in Room 119 of Chance Academic Center at the beginning of the fall semester.
The health promotions office does not offer over-the-counter drugs or provide first aid services as a result of budget cuts. Instead, the office offers advice on health maintenance, disease prevention and self-care. The office is staffed by Coordinator Paula Daggett, RN, and Josie Noriega, LVN.
HIV testing took place in Daggett's office. It has three glass windows and opens onto a seating area where people waited for the test.
A wooden privacy screen in the office blocked the view of an individual undergoing the test, but the professional from Center for Health Care Services administering the test was visible in the waiting room.
A conversation in the testing area could not be heard from the waiting area.
Cara Hausler, epidemiologist for San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said oral testing for HIV should always be in a private room with just the tester and the person being tested.
She said curtains or paper should be hanged blocking the glass windows in the area where testing will occur.
Hausler said in some situations, the clinic has conducted HIV testing in library rooms with glass windows.
"We would hang paper up to block visibility into the room, especially if we are doing an oral test," she said. "We don't know ahead of time if they are negative or positive results and the reaction of the person could give away the result, so we want to protect their privacy."
She said testing should also be done in a setting where others cannot hear the conversation.
Daggett and Noriega said that a far as they can recall, HIV testing at this college was done in the college health center, which functioned as a clinic, by an outside agency.
Lawerence Diaz, community outreach worker for the Center for Health Care Services, said no one at this college has tested positive within the last 12 months.
Sean Baker, community outreach specialist for that organization, was one of the people giving the oral HIV test, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get the results.
He said everything discussed in testing rooms is confidential.
He said if a student tests positive, another test is conducted to confirm it.
People being tested are asked for basic information including their Social Security number, address, phone number and date of birth.
Other questions include whether a student has been tested before, how many partners they have had in the past year, what drugs they use, if they consume alcohol, whether they have had sex with more than 50 people in their lifetime, whether they have had an STD, if they use protection and what background information they know about HIV.
Baker said for a person to be HIV positive, they have to exchange bodily fluids such as vaginal fluids, ejaculate, breast milk or blood with a positive partner.
Saliva is a low-risk bodily fluid, and people with a history of having STDs are more vulnerable to getting HIV, he said.
"When a person comes in contact with HIV, the virus starts making copies of itself everyday and starts killing off white blood cells," he said.
Symptoms can be similar to those of the flu: People will start losing a lot of weight, and feel tired. Some, however, show no symptoms he said.
While the tests were being done in the student center, Diaz distributed informational pamphlets about STDs in the mall.
Diaz said the center has visited the college several times a year for events dealing with AIDS awareness and HIV testing.
He said the center is the county's mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse provider and is linked to the program Centro de Vida, which focuses on an HIV program, outreach, testing, and education in facilities such as the Bexar County Jail and substance abuse treatment facilities.
Diaz said it's important for student's to get tested because the clinic has seen an increase of positive tests from people aged 18-24.
The Center for Health Care Services offers free HIV testing from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at their clinic, 3031 Interstate 10 W.
Daggett said the nearest free HIV testing clinic to the college is BEAT Aids, 218 W. Cypress St.