Today is the second annual National Transgender HIV Testing Day. The day is to raise awareness and prevention of HIV in transgender people. Out of 2,351 transgender people diagnosed with HIV from 2009 to 2014, 84% of those diagnosed were transgender women, 15% were transgender men and less than 1% identified as another gender according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 accounted for 22 percent of new diagnosis for HIV in the United States according to the CDC.

Student Health Services has long been serving the student population with as much guidance and resources they can. New School students can get free HIV testing every Monday from 3 to 4:30 at the Student Health Services center. Starting last year, the department started offering a HIV preventative drug called PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a daily drug that is meant to prevent HIV in anyone at risk of being exposed to the virus. Students with insurance through the school or through another source can access the drug through Student Health Services.

“The reason we decided to offer PrEP is it’s become the standard of care,” Jayne Jordan, Director of Medical services said. “We have a number of students who are at risk based on all the STI screening we’ve been doing throughout the years and we wanted to make it accessible. There is no reason why PrEP should only be offered by HIV specialty practices.”

Jordan estimated that only 25 students are actively on the drug. Students who want a prescription have to first go through HIV and STI testing through Health Services in order to get a prescription. Though the school offers free mouth swab HIV testing on Mondays, students who want to start PrEP must go through the blood HIV test offered by Health Services to get a more accurate result.

“It’s quite a commitment,” Jordan said. “Students have to come back every two to three months to do repeat HIV testing and appropriate repeat STI screenings based on behaviors. If a student misses a dose or they go off the medication, HIV retesting must be done to ensure they are able to take the medication again.”

Side effects include headache and nausea but Jordan said the effects usually wear off after the first month of starting the medication.

For students going away for the summer, they can request a prescription overside which Jordan said allows them to get up to three months of medication in advance. Though the medication is covered by student health insurance, there is a $40 copay which Jordan said the student can pay or have have reduced through coupons. To make an appointment with Student Health Services call (212) 229-1671, option 2.

Author: Orlando Mendiola