Oberlin Blogs

Student Org Series: HIV Peer Testers

September 29, 2021

Charlize Villasenor ’23

The fall semester is finally here! I'm moving in this weekend, and I'll officially be a junior and in the second half of my Oberlin career. I felt that for this segment of the Student Org Series, I would talk about an organization near and dear to my heart. It's especially special to me because I joined this tight-knit group my freshman year and have now become the coordinator. Today, I'll be talking about HIV Peer Testers: a group created to increase the accessibility of HIV testing on campus by providing no-cost, peer-administered tests and related resources to students. Our mission is to increase access to testing and other resources and reduce the stigma associated with HIV by educating students and informing them of the advancements made in HIV and virology-related research. Feel free to keep reading if you'd like to get a closer look at who we are as an organization.

HIV Peer Testing Logo

1. What is HIV Peer Testers, and what do we do?

HIV Peer Testers is a group of students that collaborates with county and state health officials to administer free, confidential oral HIV antibody tests to the community. In the past, we have partnered with Lorain County Public Health to host testing days at the college where students can be tested for STI, Hepatitis C, and of course HIV, at no cost in a single day. Oberlin students in our organization administer the HIV tests to promote students' health on campus as a form of self-care and community care. We also guide students towards other resources on campus, such as the Sexual Information Center and Student Health Center, based on their needs, and educate students on prevention and the advancement of research in the study of HIV to reduce its stigma. 

2. What are some events we look forward to?

In typical academic years, we have had free Narcan trainings where students learn how to administer Narcan (also known as naloxone) to unresponsive individuals who may be experiencing an overdose. We conduct these trainings once a semester, and students are provided with Narcan and the training to use it for free. As stated above, we also typically have a "big testing day" where students can get tested for various things at no cost, and these services also come at no cost to students. Though we could not do so for the 2020-2021 academic year due to covid restrictions, we're excited to collaborate with the Student Health Center and county and state health officials to hopefully bring these events to Oberlin's campus again this year!

3. What is my favorite memory with HIV Peer Testers? 

My favorite memories are getting closer with the other peer testers during our meetings. Since it's only a few of us, we can easily do things like take photos together, watch films, and at times even cook for each other. Being in a smaller group allows us to get to know each other more easily by starting our meetings with a check-in to see how everybody is doing and having a group chat to stay in touch. Overall getting to know the other testers better and knowing we're doing valuable work are my favorite parts of being a peer tester.

4. What are some long-term goals for HIV Peer Testers?

In the long term, we want to test more frequently and have more informational events and resources. In the past, we were able to test students twice a month, but hopefully, we're able to increase our availability to once or twice a week, depending on our resources! We also recognize that there is still stigma and misinformation surrounding HIV and testing, so it would be great also to have a more substantial presence in the Oberlin community so students can come to us for information or resources! We plan to do this by having speaker panels and creating a more consistent presence on social media.

5. How can students get involved? 

Feel free to reach out for more information if you'd like to know more about our organization! We send applications and hold interviews at the end of semesters for students interested in becoming peer testers! We typically hire enough students to fill the positions of those who are graduating, studying abroad, or are leaving for other reasons. We tend to hire those passionate about community care and have more time than not left at Oberlin to be peer testers for the amount of time they have left as students on campus.  

6. How can students stay connected?

Though we don't currently have events to promote, feel free to be on the lookout in the spring semester as we'll start to offer HIV testing again in spring 2022. Until then, feel free to follow along on Instagram at @hivpeertesting or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hivpeertesters.oberlin/. We hope to see you soon!

 

Being part of HIV Peer Testers has been a rewarding experience for me and has required me to grow as a person, especially socially and organizationally. I consider it an essential resource on campus, and I'm thankful to have been introduced to it so early in my time as an Obie. I'll be writing about more student organizations that students can get involved with, so continue to stay tuned as I cover other student organizations that the Oberlin community has to offer!

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