Free HIV/AIDS testing at WCU in honor of World AIDS Day

Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) administered free HIV/AIDS testing at Western Carolina University on Monday, Nov. 28. The event took place in honor of World AIDS Day, Dec.1.

A total of 25 students and two faculty and staff  took advantage of the opportunity before the tests ran out.

Prevention specialist with WNCAP, Tracey Childers, said being tested is one of the most important ways to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading.

“We only brought 27 tests and we used everyone of them. I should’ve brought more. It’s so great that so many students want to be tested,” said Childers.

HIV and AIDS are two of the most prominent diseases of our times, yet many people are still ignorant when it comes to the diseases. In 1981, the Center for Disease Control announced HIV had become an epidemic. World AIDS Day was recognized for the first time in 1988. It is a day to give an opportunity for people worldwide to fight against HIV and to commemorate people who have died from the disease.

As of 2015, HIV killed more than an estimated 39 million people worldwide. Misunderstandings and myths surrounding the disease make it even more dangerous. Myths like “If you’re affected by HIV, you’ll know it” and “We don’t need to worry about HIV anymore” are some of the many reasons people choose not to get tested.

Public relations student who works with Catamount Communication and help organizer the event at WCU, Kenyetta Mcgowens,  said there is a fear when it comes to HIV/AIDS testing.

“People have a fear of it and one of the things that we keep stating to everyone is it’s a swab test, no blood is being drawn. It helps ease some of that fear,” said Mcgowens.

HIV and AIDS are not one in the same. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that can cause an infection, but Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a syndrome. The only way for a person to find out if they have either HIV or AIDS is to get tested. According to, if HIV is left untreated, that’s when it can lead to AIDS.

“The importance of early diagnosis is that, if you start your treatment early, it lowers the virus levels very abruptly and with quick care and medicines the virus can go to what is called undetectable,” explained Childers.

Once diagnosed with HIV/AIDS it is important to always take your medicines, even if you’re HIV status is undetectable. Undetectable HIV is still HIV, and can still be spread.

Student, Jarod Kirby said he gets tested because it’s a smart thing to do.

“It’s good to periodically know how I am. We’re all sexually active, so it’s just good to know where you stand,” said Kirby.