Searle, BEHIV team up on tests

Abbie VanSickle

Searle Student Health Service said Monday that Northwestern students soon will have access to free and anonymous HIV tests.

The testing will be sponsored by Better Existence with HIV, or BEHIV, a private non-profit AIDS service organization in Northern Cook County.

The testing will be available beginning April 24. Students can be tested at Searle on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Mark Gardner, director of student health.

“It’s a service students did use (when offered previously),” Gardner said.

Since October, Searle has been offering “confidential” HIV testing. Under this system, medical records show that the test was taken but do not show the results. With anonymous testing, no record is filed at all.

Although Searle’s tests are not currently free, the $15.25 charge is covered for students who are on the NU insurance plan.

Beginning in 1997, the Evanston Health Department provided free and anonymous HIV tests weekly at Searle. But the service stopped in June after federal funds ran out.

Since then, Gardner and other student health officers have been looking for a replacement provider. If students specifically seek free, anonymous testing at Searle, they are referred to the Evanston Health Department, 2100 Ridge Ave.

“Fortunately there was a location that offered the tests near campus, but they offered the services during the day, ” Gardner said. “We will offer the tests during the evenings. Students seem to like having the testing hours during evenings.”

Although it’s available elsewhere, free and anonymous testing should be offered on campus, said Debb Farr, a Peer Health Educator. She said students who live on campus are more likely to get tested if they can do so at Searle.

“In forums where we work with students, it is a concern,” said Farr, a Weinberg sophomore. “It’s a big thing to have, especially on a college campus.”

Networking in the Evanston community put Searle in contact with BEHIV, said Gardner. As well as setting up satellite testing sites, such as the one at NU, BEHIV offers outreach programs in Chicago, providing education for people at high risk of infection and supporting those living with HIV. Founded in 1989, BEHIV is “the only comprehensive AIDS service provider in Cook County,” according to its Web site.

“BEHIV’s outreach goes out into places most of us would consider kind of dangerous,” Gardner said.

Farr said PHEs have done volunteer work with BEHIV.

“We’re very pleased that they’re going to be on campus,” she said.