North Texas Daily

Mean Green Testing Machine provides free HIV screening to students every Wednesday

Mean Green Testing Machine provides free HIV screening to students every Wednesday

Mean Green Testing Machine provides free HIV screening to students every Wednesday
October 19
12:21 2018

The mobile HIV screening van, called the Mean Green Testing Machine, provides free, anonymous testing to students on campus every Wednesday outside the Union. Students who are tested can receive their status within 30 minutes.

“Right now we are trying to focus on Wednesdays,” health educator Israel Chavarria said. “They have been out five times this semester on Wednesdays. We also have a component for students who may not be available on Wednesdays that comes out on Thursdays.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported people ages 13 to 24 made up 21 percent of all new HIV diagnosis in 2016. After seeing an 85 percent increase in student screening, the goal for this year is to get at least 400 students tested.

“[Getting tested] is our first indicator to know where each individual is at, as far as their HIV status,” Chavarria said. “Presently, there is no cure for HIV, so the best way we can kind of get some of those numbers to stop spreading is to get everybody to check their own individual status.”

The Mean Green Testing Machine was brought to UNT after partnering with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an international advocacy organization.

“[AIDS Healthcare Foundation] contacted us and wanted to get involved with the university,” Chavarria said. “This was a great marriage because they needed the numbers to keep tests going out, and we needed to provide a resource for students who were uncomfortable coming into the building for HIV tests.”

One of the main focuses for the program is to change the way people think about HIV and promote getting tested.

“We encourage anyone and everyone to come out,” said Aries Nuno, a public health senior and lead student assistant at the Meadows Center for Health Resources in UNT’s Health and Wellness Center. “We encourage them to come out and show support for their friends and their peers. With HIV, there is a lot of stigma from the public. Because of that, a lot of people are in denial about having HIV or they postpone getting tested and knowing what their status is. It is important to destigmatize it to help be a supportive community on campus.”

Media arts freshman Nathan Bishara believes getting tested is important to students.

“Students should get regularly tested not only because it’s offered for free, but because as a healthy individual it’s important that we make sure we are safe and have knowledge of our own health and STD status,” Bishara said. “HIV testing is free at Chestnut hall, so please go get screened if you are sexually active or have been in the past. Knowing your STD status is a part of being safe during sex. Don’t let the stigma around getting tested hold you back. You are in charge of your own health.”

With the average cost of a HIV test in the U.S. being between $48 and $64, Chavarria said he believes the free resources available to students should be taken advantage of.

“Once you get out of college, the amount of free opportunities start to dwindle and dry up pretty quick,” Chavarria said. “So come out, get involved, participate and if you see us on campus, come talk to us. We are not going to shame you or judge you. We are just going to provide you with the services you may need.”

Featured Image: UNT provides free resources for its students to have anonymous HIV screenings. This allows for a more comforting process for those students that feel uneasy. Dimmagio Escobedo

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Kiara St. Clair

Kiara St. Clair

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