Photo and story by Daniel Shaw-Remeta / Contributing Writer
Free HIV testing was offered to all MTSU students on campus Tuesday inside the Student Union Building. The free tests were provided by Nashville CARES, an organization that works to end the spread of HIV and AIDS in Middle Tennessee. The quick “cheek-swab” was said to only take about 20 minutes from filling out the paperwork to receiving the results.
“It’s very important that individuals know their HIV status,” said Ronellis Tunstill, a Nashville CARES employee and MTSU alumnus. “Whether they are positive or negative, we are their linkage to the care that they may need.”
Nashville CARES was formed in August of 1985 at the LifeStyles Health Clinic in Nashville and adopted the name, Council on AIDS, Resources, Education and Support. Since then, AIDS has remained at the center of the nonprofit’s focus, and it has since positioned itself as a force in stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS throughout Middle Tennessee.
Last year, Nashville CARES tested 11,700 individuals for HIV and linked 50 of the people who tested positive to the care and support they needed. They also helped 1,200 of their clients find and keep housing and provided 101,900 meals to 1,570 people living with HIV or AIDS.
A 2013 study showed that 1.2 million people living in the United States had HIV, with over two-thirds of them being homosexual men. The same study showed that, statistically, one out of every six homosexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. A push toward better education and treatment for the virus seems to be a common goal among many people who know of the virus’s severity. MTSU senior and sociology major Justice Robinson volunteered to help inform people about the free testing on campus Tuesday.
“There are people in my family who have HIV, and it affects so many people,” he said. “It’s such a heavily stigmatized subject that a lot of people feel like they can’t come forward or that they have to live in shame with it.”
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