California: Senior Class Project -- Getting Tested for HIV
February 9, 2011
Feb. 11 will mark what is believed to be the nation's first HIV testing by an entire high school class. The 80 seniors at San Francisco's Urban School will be required to attend an information session ahead of the event; a voluntary lunchtime discussion open to all students at the private school will follow. The voluntary testing will be held in the school's gym.
"The goal is to educate on how easy it is to get tested and how important it is," said senior Oliver Hamilton, who came up with the idea.
Hamilton is counting on a build-up of peer expectation to ensure a high level of participation. Normally kids would worry that getting tested might be interpreted to suggest they are promiscuous, he said. "But if 70 kids get tested and 10 don't, people might wonder why those 10 are the ones who are scared. Critical mass is really important."
Dr. Marcus Conant, a longtime HIV/AIDS provider, agreed to help Hamilton plan the event. Hamilton has worked in the office of Conant, who also runs an HIV education foundation. Conant will oversee the mouth-swab tests, which were donated by test maker OraSure Technologies Inc. Students who participate will receive a free ice cream, thanks to a donation Hamilton secured from a local Ben & Jerry's.
School administrators were receptive to Hamilton's proposal. But Charlotte Worsley, Urban's assistant head for student life, expressed concern about protecting student privacy and ensuring students do not feel pressured to discuss their results. In response, Conant agreed to delay the results for several days, and give students the choice of receiving them by e-mail, phone or regular mail.
"We understand that one of the best ways to alleviate the stigma that can be attached to testing is to let it become just part of the normal health practice of all teens," said Worsley.
Wall Street Journal
02.03.2011; Geoffrey A. Fowler
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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