Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) set a promising new precedent by offering health services for the “mind, body and spirit.” This past Nov. 27, 2012 NEIU Health Services, in conjunction with Affinity Community Services, the Chicago Abortion Fund, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) and VIDA/SIDA organized a health fair in the Student Union. These organizations offered breakout sessions and discussions on a variety of topics; research as it pertains to LGBTQA community health issues; the health services available at NEIU, including the Plan B pill; reproductive justice in Chicago, including a showing of the documentary “Trust Black Women”; and ending human trafficking by raising awareness about the “End Demand Illinois Campaign.” As part of the recognition efforts of World AIDS Day 2012 & the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, VIDA/SIDA offered free rapid result HIV testing. The organization performed close to 50 anonymous and confidential HIV tests, and had trained STI counselors available for students to speak with about their concerns.
Maritxa Vidal, Director of Outreach for VIDA/SIDA was on site, helping to administer HIV tests. She criticized the current money-driven medical response to HIV, saying that pharmaceutical companies only cared about money, not the people affected by this epidemic. “HIV tests should be free and accessible to all U.S. citizens. In Cuba, even though it is a communist country, HIV tests are free for everyone and Cuba has seen a drastic drop in the number of new cases as a result.” Vidal went on to say that a store such as Walgreens carrying an at-home HIV test neglected the emotional aspects of testing for HIV. “Sometimes a person just isn’t ready to know. I’ve had people stop me in the middle of reading them their results, change their mind and tell me they don’t want to know. ” She stressed that having a trained counselor available when finding out life-altering results such as an HIV test was tremendously important to a person’s immediate mental health.
Starting in January of 2013, VIDA/SIDA plans to offer free HIV testing monthly on the following dates: January 15, February 20, March 12, April 17, and May 2. For more information, please contact NEIU LGBTQA Resource Center representative Janean Watkins at 773-442-5449, or [email protected]