World AIDS Day is Dec. 1, however, Cal Poly is having its own AIDS event today through Thursday by offering free HIV testing and education. This is the first year free testing is offered thanks to Pride Alliance. The testing will take place at the Cal Poly Health Center from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. all three days.

Peer Health Education and the Pride Center put on this event to talk about safe-sex education, promote getting tested and offer support.

Approximately 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and of the 40,000 new cases each year, half are people under the age of 25, according to Until There’s a Cure Foundation.

“The only way to stop the spread of the HIV virus is to protect yourself,” said Angela Kramer, an English sophomore and student coordinator of the Pride Center.

Kramer said it is the goal of Peer Health Education and the Pride Alliance to educate Cal Poly students and the community on how to protect themselves against the pandemic.

“People should take advantage of the free testing. It can be scary getting tested alone, but offering this, students know other people are getting tested as well,” said Lizzy LaMotte-Mitchell, a Peer Health Educator and political science senior. The number of people who pass it onto someone they love because they didn’t know is shocking, LaMotte-Mitchell said. In fact, one in four people pass HIV onto someone else because they are unaware they are infected.

One test being offered, OraSure, only checks for HIV. The test is simple: A small pad on a plastic stick is placed between the gum and cheek, a swab is taken and the pad must remain in a closed mouth for three minutes. Since the test must be sent to a lab off campus, results will take two weeks. Students can also choose to take a blood test to test for HIV and STDs.

Usually all tests cost around $8 at the Health Center, but the Pride Alliance is supplying the free testing from its own budget. Results are confidential, but not anonymous. In order for students to get their results they must leave their name and phone number with the Health Center so a consultation can occur once results are received.

During the three days, visual displays will be hung up around the University Union and on Thursday in the UU Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A booth will be set up with pamphlets, condoms and a list of community resources. Kramer is reminding everyone to wear red on Thursday and Friday to support World AIDS Day.

LaMotte-Mitchell said Peer Health Education is trying to organize more events so that more people will feel comfortable to visit the center when they need help or have questions.

LaMotte-Mitchell is part of the E.R.O.S. (Educational Resources on Sexuality) team, a group that educates students about birth control and safe sex.

Peer Health Education also offers teams to assist students with nutrition and a T.L.C. (Thoughtful Lifestyle Choices), going to dorms to teach about substance abuse.

Located just below the Health Center, Peer Health Education is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Free condoms and dental dams (used for oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex to reduce transmission of STIs) are available at the front of the office so students don’t even have to walk all the way in, LaMotte-Mitchell said.

The Pride Center is located behind the University Union in building 52T, room 104. The center “is the safe space on campus for anyone to come,” Kramer said. Students are welcome no matter their gender, sex or race. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To further support education about AIDS, the Pride Alliance ordered a limited amount of necklaces from the YouthAIDS Campaign to sell for $5 at the center. The necklaces say “hear, see, speak” on them, and all proceeds go back to the foundation.

In the community, the AIDS Network of San Luis Obispo organized “Eat Out, Save Lives” for Dec. 1 in honor of World AIDS Day. There is a list of local eateries, available at www.asn.org, that will donate 10 percent of all proceeds to the AIDS Support Network’s Food Pantry Program.

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