The LGBTQ+ Culture Center is offering free HIV testing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday. The service is provided through Positive Link, a program of IU Health.
Doug Bauder, LGBTQ+ culture center director, said he remembers when HIV was called GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency.
“GRID was the acronym and it was related to gay men in this country, and it was very sad and very short sighted,” Bauder said. “But I want to reemphasize that AIDS is an issue that all people, and especially young people, need to face.”
The service also provides pre-exposure prophylaxis prescriptions to protect people who may come into contact with HIV. .
PrEP is a prophylaxis, meaning it is used to prevent transmission of a disease, said Jesse Elkins, a PrEP navigator at Positive Link. A PrEP navigator is a social worker that focuses on educating the community and works with doctors to ensure proper care.
Junior Preston Gilts said his decision to go on PrEP filled him with relief. He said he felt less paranoid and gained a sense of confidence he didn’t have before.
However, that’s not to say there weren’t side effects. He said he would go through periods of extreme hunger and fullness.
Elkins said PrEP has had the approval of the FDA since 2012, under the brand name Truvada. The pill has to be taken every day. The CDC reports PrEP is effective 92 percent of the time when taken as instructed.
“It binds to cells, whether rectal tissue, vaginal tissue or blood tissue. If HIV were to enter the body, it would be unable to penetrate the outer layer of the cell,” Elkins said.
Even while someone is on PrEP, they still have to be tested for HIV due to the medication not providing complete immunity, Elkins said.
When Positive Link approached the LGBTQ+ Culture Center originally, it did not have the space to support the program. The LGBTQ+ Culture Center was originally the size of a small classroom when it opened in 1994. At the time, the LGBTQ+ Culture Center shared the space with the Office of Student Ethics. When that office left, the LGBTQ+ Culture Center took over the entire building.
Now that the program is up and running, Bauder said he hopes the testing can continue to provide relief and answers to those who need it.
“The people who come in for testing I think are just grateful that the service is available here,” Bauder said.
Bauder said he wants everyone to know that HIV is not a queer disease, and that it will take many communities working together to eradicate it.
“We’re in this together, meaning life in general but also specifically confronting HIV and AIDS issues,” Bauder said.
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