Over the past decade, the New Jersey Department of Health’s annual HIV/AIDS reports have shown that the rate of HIV/AIDS is steadily rising in New Jersey, putting it in the top 10 states with the highest rates in the country.
The numbers counted, however, do not include those who do not yet know they have the disease and have not been tested to find out. Many infections, including HIV, do not show any symptoms early in the illness.
Seton Hall University offers services to raise awareness and prevention for HIV and Health Services stresses the importance of doing so.
During the annual College of Nursing Community Fair, Health Services sponsors a table that provides information to increase student awareness.
Diane Lynch, assistant director of Health Services, said in an email that the table teaches students about the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s routine screening guidelines, prevention strategies, risk factors, what is involved in getting tested, and the services we provide in regards to testing.”
HIV testing is done through a blood test and is available to all students at Health Services. There is no vaccine that exists for the prevention of HIV, but the HPV vaccine, which has the potential to prevent a sexually transmitted infection, is available at Health Services.
Lynch said that this vaccine has additional benefits of possibly preventing cancer, as it protects against viruses that are frequently implicated in cervical cancers.
Health Services recommends that every student should know what the guidelines are for routine HIV screening.
“HIV is a blood borne infection which can be transmitted to individuals through exposure to infected blood. This means it is not exclusively transmitted through sexual activity. ‘AIDS’ is the term that actually describes the disease which occurs when the HIV infections goes untreated and affects an individual’s immune system,” Lynch said. “The goal is to test and treat people so they do not develop the disease.”
Some students said they thought STD and STI vaccines such as the HPV vaccine should be mandatory.
Flavia Esteves, a senior, social and behavioral science major, said that people never know who could be infected.
“Yes, just to be on the safe side, to prevent the spread, there should be a mandatory vaccine,” Flavia said.
Alexandra Garcia, senior social and behavioral science major, said that it should be mandatory “at least for residents.”
Lynch further said that everyone should be tested at least once in their lifetime for HIV regardless of risk factors.
Daniela Geraldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.