By Kiersten Pace & LaTroya Hester, NAATPN
Women and girls deserve the knowledge and power they need to live their best lives—and we’re not going back and forth with you on this one. But when it comes to HIV, it turns out that many women still don’t have the information they need to make healthy decisions. One out of seven people living with HIV have no idea that they have it. This is a big deal for young women in college.
On campuses where students are knowledgeable, fearless and judgment-free, young women are still not including HIV as a part of their sexual health routine. We asked 10 college women if they have been tested for HIV, and we’re sharing their thoughts and our feedback – just in time for National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
I’ve never been tested before, not for HIV, that is. I just know I don’t have it and would never get it, so I don’t worry. – Junior
Your response: Anyone who has sex can get HIV – the virus does not discriminate. The only want to know your status is to get tested.
HIV testing? Why would I need to get that done? I don’t have any symptoms of HIV. – Sophomore
Your response: Women and girls living with HIV may have no symptoms for years. Even if HIV causes no symptoms, it is still hurting your body’s immune system.
I always make it my duty to get tested whenever I switch sex partners. Just testing for STD’s and STI’s isn’t enough anymore. – Senior
Our response: HIV prevention starts with you! Kudos!
I have never been tested for anything in my life. I mean, I don’t think anyone I’ve had sex with is ‘dirty’ per say, but just the thought of getting poked for my blood to be taken isn’t very pleasing for me. – Freshman
Our response: People living with HIV or other STI’s are not dirty. But the only way to know your status is to get tested. You can get tested with home kits that use only your saliva, so needles necessary. You can learn more about how to get tested your way.
I got tested once about 6 months ago. Me and my friend just kinda did it [as a joke]. There was a free HIV testing truck on campus, and we just went. They gave us our results back almost instantly. I’m glad I went. –Junior
Our response: Good for you! HIV testing can be free and convenient!
Tested? For what? I know I don’t have HIV. I thought you only get tested for HIV if you are gay? I don’t feel like I need to be tested honestly. I don’t have HIV.
Our response: One quarter of people living with HIV are women, and their diagnoses are primarily from heterosexual contact. The only way to know your status is to get tested.
Yeah, I got tested once. It was a while back, maybe 2 years ago. The only reason I got tested is because I went along with my friend. She was scared and thought that maybe her last partner had given her HIV. So, I got the test done, too, so she wouldn’t feel alone. –Sophomore
Our response: Supporting a friend is a great reason to get tested for HIV. You can learn more about PEP and PrEP, medications used to prevent HIV for mixed status couples.
I have never been tested. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to go to the doctor and be charged an arm and leg for a small simple test. I’m in college. –Sophomore
Our response: HIV testing is usually free at your primary care doctor’s office. But you can text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948) to find a free or low-cost testing location near you.
Me and my boyfriend have been together for almost 3 years now. I haven’t been tested, I’ve been sleeping with the same person for so long. I don’t see the point.
Our response: Getting tested together can enhance trust and intimacy. Talking about your sexual health is an important part of loving relationship.
I get tested often. After I experienced a traumatic event in my life, I realized getting tested is important and necessary—not embarrassing. I just hate that it took that for me to realize. – Junior
Our response: You are strong and resilient. When everyone understands how important and necessary HIV testing is, we can stop the spread of the virus.
Many young women in college are still dealing with fear misinformation as it relates to HIV, and talking about getting tested can seem scary. But there is a clear upside. Knowing your status can increase trust between partners and even help lower overall HIV rates in this country. For those seeking support or lending it to others, text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948) to find a testing location near you. One simple test can lead to a big change. Know your status, ladies! #NWGHAAD.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 10.
*Responses have been edited for clarity and/or brevity.