The San Ysidro Health Clinic mobile unit was parked outside of the Pride Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 7 to provide free testing and information about HIV.
The testing for HIVs at SDSU is anonymous, San Diego State University’s Pride Center Wesley Palau said. Results are available in just minutes, and if the results come back as positive, educators provide their patients with information and resources, and connect them with the next steps.
Program Supervisor in the Research and Health Promotion Department at the San Ysidro Health Clinic Rebecca Zipfel said through the presentation of the mobile unit, Comprehensive High Impact Prevention, or CHIP, wanted to make sure that people from all ages, all backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations and identities can associate with them.
Under the health clinic, CHIP focuses on underserved communities, such as young, African American and Latino men around the ages of 16 to 29 who identify as gay or bisexual people. Coordinator of the SDSU Pride Center Wesley Palau first reached out to CHIP through an email during the spring of 2018 for the Trans Week of Empowerment.
“I spoke to (Wesley), and we agreed to get the CHIP mobile unit up at the Pride Center on a regular basis,” Zipfel said. “So we set up a twice-a-month schedule for the CHIP program to come up to the Pride Center and offer outreach about HIV prevention (and) treatment. We offer escort services and provide free HIV testing.”
Palau said HIV tests can be costly and that there are barriers to getting tested. These barriers includes getting transportation to places such as Hillcrest or Downtown. Palau also said these locations can often have limited testing options.
This was the reason they wanted to offer testing to both the LGBTQIA+ community on campus and the greater community.
“I think it was a mutually created collaboration and I think it’s increased the amount of testing options available on campus,” Palau said.
The Pride Center’s work with the CHIP mobile unit also works to educate students on HIV.
“At the same time (the collaboration is) helping to destigmatize some misconceptions around testing, particularly because the people doing the testing are very educated around what kind of test they offer and what (the) tests are for,” Palau said.
CHIP was able to test around 13 individuals on Nov. 7, Zipfel said.
San Ysidro Health educator Darvin Jennings said the main reasons for low youth turnout is the stigma around getting tested. Stigmas from HIV stem from the media and how HIV positive people are portrayed, or miscommunication of how the virus is transmitted, according to Jennings.
Additionally, Jennings said their job is to establish a connection with the community so people feel welcome to reach out to them and ask questions.
“I think we’ve really benefited from being here (at SDSU) more frequently, because we are starting to become a lot more recognized on campus,” Jennings said. “So a lot more students who’ve had the experience of testing with one of our health educators are referring their friends to come back and so it’s a waiting game.”
The next HIV testing provided by CHIP is on Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Pride Center.