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Anonymous HIV Testing To Begin Soon

Announcement Is Expected Today

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Responding to months of pressure from student groups, University Health Services (UHS) will reverse a long-standing policy and begin offering anonymous HIV antibody testing early next month, the Task Force on HIV Policies is scheduled to announce today.

Beginning November 11, students can call to make appointments for anonymous testing and counseling. The first set of tests will be performed during the week of November 18, said Julie A. Karp '98, a task force member and AIDS Education and Outreach (AEO) co president.

"It's really exciting to have worked so hard on something and to finally see it come to fruition, especially when you're dealing with a large institution like UHS or the Harvard administration," said task force member Rachel E. Silverman '96-'97, an AEO co-president.

UHS currently offers confidential testing, but members of AEO had expressed concern that such testing does not protect students from discrimination by employers and health insurance companies.

In confidential testing, the results of the antibody test are not included with the client's medical record, but generally kept in a file linked to patients' medical records.

Under an anonymous testing system, clients' names are not recorded, according to the task force's report. Patients are identified only by a code number.

The change in policy follows a decision by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to limit publicly-funded anonymous antibody testing to high-risk individuals, an estimated 34 percent of those utilizing MDPH's testing service.

According to a May task force report which recommended to UHS Director David S. Rosenthal '59 that anonymous testing be implemented, this change in MDPH policy limits student access to off-campus testing.

The May report also included results from two telephone surveys conducted over the last two years which suggested that a majority of students want anonymous testing at UHS and that UHS's current system of response to students' inquiries about HIV antibody testing is inadequate.

The task force, which is composed of both students and UHS administrators, has been unusually responsive to students' concerns, said UHS Health Educator and task force member Linda J. Frazier.

"This is the first time that we have responded to student concerns with their active participation in the decision making," she said.

Testing will take place one morning and one afternoon each week at a location in Holyoke Center where other clinical services are performed, according to Silverman.

Exact testing dates and the phone number for making appointments have yet to be determined, Frazier said.

Students who seek testing will be required to meet with a counselor contracted from Cambridge City Hospital both before and after the test, Silverman said.

Students will be required to pay $10 for each test, Silverman said, although the University will cover the fee for students who cannot afford it.

AEO would eventually like to raise enough money to make the test free for all students, Silverman added.

"Students have to know that these services are out there," Silverman said. "We are going to work to publicize the testing so that students use it. This is really only the beginning of our work."

Rosenthal told The Crimson last May that UHS will still offer confidential testing, giving students the option of confidential or anonymous testing

Students who seek testing will be required to meet with a counselor contracted from Cambridge City Hospital both before and after the test, Silverman said.

Students will be required to pay $10 for each test, Silverman said, although the University will cover the fee for students who cannot afford it.

AEO would eventually like to raise enough money to make the test free for all students, Silverman added.

"Students have to know that these services are out there," Silverman said. "We are going to work to publicize the testing so that students use it. This is really only the beginning of our work."

Rosenthal told The Crimson last May that UHS will still offer confidential testing, giving students the option of confidential or anonymous testing

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