By Celeste Delagarza
The Black Effort Against the Threat of AIDS Coalition Trust (BEAT AIDS) and The San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) partnered with Our Lady of the Lake University to provide free HIV/AIDS testing throughout the month of September. Testing was offered to students in the University Wellness and Activity Center (UWAC). Students received emails regarding the testing days and times being offered. Here, students were able to walk in without an appointment to be tested. Students were also educated on HIV, AIDS, and Syphilis.
The ongoing education and testing has stemmed from a program put together by Project Director, Dr. Joan Biever, and Co-Project Director, Dr. Arana Bressler. BEAT AIDS and SAAF collaborated with OLLU and proposed the 3 year program to the government. In result, the funded program ¡DALE! was created to decrease and prevent substance abuse as potential risk factors for the HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C (HCV) virus amongst young adults. Funded by a grant from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the program is also designed to help provide understanding to those who are affected with the viruses. The program’s main goal is to also help provide services to at least 600 minority adults, ages 18-24, who attend the university. These services include testing, screening, educational programs, and counseling.
The time one spends pursuing an undergraduate degree is some of the hardest a student can endure. It’s a learning experience in both school and in social settings. Students will meet new people and the risk of young adults on college campuses abusing alcohol and/or drugs run fairly high during this time. Substance abuse of any kind has been associated with unsafe sexual behaviors, which can also increase the chance of HIV transmission.
I was able to speak with Dr. Arana Bressler about ¡Dale! and what she hopes it can offer students at OLLU. Dr. Bressler elaborated on the initial startup of the program and mentioned the program is about “taking ownership of your health.” She also explained that while the program is still in the beginning stages of planning, she hopes it grows to become a bigger presence on campus in the future.
SAAF has also implemented a campaign to surrounding universities entitled College Tour. During this tour, the foundation will travel to six universities throughout San Antonio and offer free testing. In case anyone was unable to attend, free testing is also provided Monday through Friday at a nearby SAAF testing office located on Hackberry Street.
More than one million Americans carry the HIV/AIDS virus today and over 33 million people are living with the virus globally. Many people will not realize they are infected with HIV/AIDS right away which can impact treatment and awareness. ¡Dale! is a major stepping stone for the university and hopes to provide knowledge and understanding to students who might be at potential risk.