“I don’t think I have it, but if the test is free anyway...”

“I don’t think I have it, but if the test is free anyway...”

UM students testing for HIV during action day

17-05-2023 · Reportage

MAASTRICHT. “The yield so far,” a nurse from the STD clinic OneDayClinic points with a wink towards a rack with twenty or so vials of blood. In a meditation room of university chaplaincy The Innbetween, transformed into a ‘test location’ for the occasion, he has been welcoming UM students this Monday afternoon to take a free HIV test and providing information on sexual health. There is not much time for a chat, because there is quite a queue in the corridor.

The turnout is higher than expected, says Hanne Zimmermann, assistant professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, who organised this action day. “There were 27 time slots available, all of which were already booked a week ago. Considering the sensitivity of the subject, we had expected some cancelations, but it has been better than anticipated. A number of students even brought friends along who had been unable to sign up online. A total of about 35 students looking for advice are expected today, the majority of whom will leave a vial of blood behind. In two days’ time, they can view the result of the laboratory test online.

The action is part of a broader project, set up by Maastricht researchers, focussing on HIV prevention in the Euregion. “Students constitute an important target group,” Zimmermann explains. “HIV is not necessarily more prevalent among them. But they are very active sexually and have usually not been tested before. As you often don’t notice that you have it, you could unintentionally transmit HIV.” That is why the number of new patients has not really dropped in the ‘student group’, says Zimmermann. “Whereas that is the case in high-risk groups where more attention is paid to HIV infection, such as homosexual men. In the last mile in the battle against HIV, a lot can be gained outside these high-risk group.

Routine testing is therefore the way to go. Students who regularly sleep with different people, Zimmermann advises to take a HIV test once or twice a year. She is hoping that this action day is a first step. “Judging by today’s interest, it appears there is a need for information and tests. But many students don’t know where to find these, especially international students who are often not registered with a GP. In addition, testing through your GP is not free, and through the GGD (Area Health Authorities) it is, but only for high-risk groups. Due to a lack of capacity, it is difficult to make an appointment with the GGD anyway.”

Zimmermann believes that extending the options is therefore absolutely necessary. “There are a lot of initiatives in the Randstad offering free tests, but in this region, these are largely lacking. We cannot fill this gap with our project alone. Maybe UM can take over this role.”

For three students who have just given a vial of blood, the free test appears to have worked. “I saw it passing in the UM newsletter and thought: why not,” says one of them. “Not that I think that I have it, but if the test doesn’t cost anything anyway, it is worthwhile checking.” She convinced two friends to come along with her, some more will follow later that afternoon. “I think that mainly women are checking this out. It seems like men are less worried.”

 

The action day was planned during the European test week for HIV, which will last the rest of the week. More information about the Maastricht project can be found at https://www.lov4eu.com/.

Photo: Observant

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: hiv,testing,fpn,students,instagram

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