“I Know My Status. Do You?” So said the volunteers’ T-shirts at the
first annual Know Your Status Day on campus, when MIT community members
could get free, confidential HIV testing in recognition of World AIDS Day.
Sixteen people, mostly graduate students, signed up in advance for
the cheek-swab test in the Stratton Student Center on Dec. 1, said
organizer Kate McCarthy, sexual health program manager in MIT Medical’s
Center for Health Promotion and Wellness and author of the Sexpertise
column. Another dozen made future appointments for HIV testing at MIT
Medical. Participants got private pre-test counseling, testing and
results, plus informational handouts and free lunch during the
30-minute wait for the test results.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from students and
their interest not only in this particular event, but in taking care of
their sexual health,” McCarthy said. Although HIV is widely publicized,
other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more common in college
students, she added, noting that STD testing for students is free at
“I usually get tested for HIV twice a year,” said a student at the
event. Usually he goes to MIT Medical, “but this is more convenient,
and it’s so quick,” he said.
Before the rapid HIV test was approved in 2004, testing involved
drawing blood and waiting up to two weeks for the result. Individuals
testing positive for HIV with the rapid test are advised to get the
more accurate blood test as a follow-up, as well as support and
By 2007, more than a million people had died of AIDS in the U.S.,
and more than 455,000 Americans were living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of all Americans newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2007, 74 percent were
male. By race and ethnicity, 51 percent were black, 29 percent were
white, and 18 percent were Hispanic/Latino. About 25 percent were 20-49
years old, while another 4 percent were 13-19.
“I’m just making sure I know my status and stay on top of it,” said
another graduate student at the event who had also been tested for HIV
several times previously. “I think this is a great opportunity.”