On-Site HIV testing dropped for demo

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An on-site HIV testing planned by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has been nixed due to a policy concern and staffing issues.

Initially, staff from the Hassle Free Clinic were to perform anonymous testing as part of an HIV awareness panel on Dec. 1 at the Student Campus Centre. Counsellors from the clinic would have been on campus as well.

Instead, a mock demonstration of the test will replace the temporary site. RSU President Jermaine Bagnall will demonstrate getting the rapid HIV test, which produces results after drawing a blood sample from a finger prick.

Zavaré Tengra, the clinic’s sexual health counsellor, said its policy states they can’t test someone at the event without knowing their status. A positive result on the spot would be upsetting and the clinic can’t spare its staff from its centre located at Gerrard and Church streets.

“I can only test someone who knows his or her result,” said Tengra who will be speaking at the event. “That’s why we didn’t randomly choose people who wanted to test. Can you imagine if I give a positive result in front of 50 people?”

Calling it “Hassle Free 101”, Tengra will lead the talk followed by other panel speakers — a representative for people living with AIDS and from affiliate group Dignitas Youth. About 50 people are expected at this event, which will deal with finding out one’s status and dealing with HIV and stigma.

“It’s a needed service in the community,” Tengra said.”

Bagnall, who got a pre-test on Nov. 23, is unconcerned with this change. “The fact that they’re still coming to speak and give a demonstration is really important.”

For a year, Bagnall has tried to involve the Hassle Free Clinic in HIV awareness at Ryerson.

“It’s something that’s been on the back of my mind,” Bagnall said. “Now I know someone who is HIV positive, but I’ve always felt that this was an important issue.”

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