Nashville CARES offers free HIV testing to MTSU students on campus

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.”

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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6 Responses

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  1. Vanessa Neptune
    Dec 06, 2017 - 01:24 PM

    I love how MTSU offers a wide range of services for their students. Since being at MTSU, this is only my second-time hearing about free HIV testing though. To be very honest, I have always heard about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s, but I don’t actually know what it is, so this article prompted me to do my own research.

    I read from hiv.org that there is no cure for HIV, only treatment. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically T-cells, which help the body’s immune system fight off infections. If untreated, HIV reduces the number of T-cells in the body, making you more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. I also read that if it is left untreated, HIV can turn into AIDS. I actually thought AIDS was just another name for HIV.

    AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV. This means people with AIDS have such bad immune systems that they can get an increasingly number of severe illnesses. It’s very sad that people in the 80s and ever today still are so afraid to even just be around someone with HIV/AIDS. It is spread through bodily fluids, not just by being close to someone. I think people need to do some of their own research, so they won’t be as ignorant and rude towards someone who has HIV/AIDS. It could affect their life in some way and not even know it.

    Reply
  2. Leah Feil
    Dec 08, 2017 - 11:32 PM

    As college students I think this is something we all need to be very aware of. I think many people are too scared to do something like get tested for a HIV because of the stigma that comes with it. This stigma is something that needs to be broken for everyone’s safety. If we could do that, not only would people be more likely to get tested but I think it would help with prevention overall because it would be an easier conversation to have with your partner. In college those conversations can seem awkward and too serious but when it is your body and your health at risk it’s ok to be serious. Anyone that tries to tell you that this is dumb or unnecessary obviously does not understand the intensity of things like this. This is because we are not educated the way we should be on things like HIV. We need to work towards educating ourselves and others so that we can understand and accept these things as a part of our lives. These free tests show that we are trying to take that next step towards making HIV and STDs easier to talk about and hopefully prevent.

    Reply
  3. Jonathan Sasser
    Dec 11, 2017 - 04:54 PM

    It is heartening to see Tennessee taking care of its own. However, it is disheartening to see how many people are diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, especially those who are homosexual. One of the reasons this is so high is because of the lack of sexual education in school systems for any type of sexual relationship be it homosexual or heterosexual. Especially in southern states, adults whose responsibility it is to teach kids the proper way to conduct sexual activities shy away from the topic due to it being uncomfortable, afraid that this type of teaching will lead to premarital sex, or that their religion is against the use of contraceptives. This prevents people from getting a proper education in sex and it causes avoidable harm like unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. By taking care when having sex, such as using condoms, much of the risks can be negated. Whether it may lead to something you don’t like, sexual education is imperative in a growing person’s life if you want them to stay healthy and happy. Unfortunately, sex education as it is, is not up to snuff. This is one of those topics that gets pushed to the sidelines in favor of other, flashier topics, though they may be just as important, but public health is one of the most important things a government has to provide.

    Reply

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