West Virginia Universitys Student Health Service has expanded its HIV program by offering OraSure testing and increased counseling this fall.

The test is a safe, confidential and convenient way for students to check whether they have HIV , according to Student Health officials. In addition, OraSure requires no blood or needles, and it has been shown to be greater than 99 percent accurate, comparable to traditional blood testing.

A cotton pad is placed between the cheek and gum of a patient for five minutes, explained Dr. Jan Palmer, director of Student Health Service. The specially treated collection pad draws antibodies from the blood vessels in the mucous membranes in the mouth. Results are available in two weeks.

Student Health officials hope by offering OraSure, more students will be encouraged to get tested.

Too often college students feel a false sense of security because they are young and appear to be healthy. They think, �€~It cant happen to me,Palmer said.HIV affects people regardless of age, gender, race or sexual orientation.

WVU s Positive Health Clinic, which treats HIV and AIDS patients from across northern West Virginia and parts of several adjacent states, recently reported a sharp increase in new HIV cases. There were 30 new cases at WVU s HIV /AIDS clinics in the first six months of 2005 compared to 41 new cases in 2004, Director Arif Sarwari reported.

Students who have had unprotected sex, shared needles (for drugs, tattoos, body piercings, steroids) or had a sexually transmitted disease should consider being tested for HIV , Palmer stressed.

We understand there can be a lot of anxiety about testing, but OraSure goes a long way in making HIV detection easier,he added.If you test positive, early treatment can greatly improve your long-term health.

WVU Student Health Service is one of the few clinics in the state to use OraSure, approved by the FDA in 1996 and considered one of the most reliable testing methods available.

A $10 co-payment covers the test and counseling services. To schedule an appointment, students may stop by Student Health Service on the ground floor of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center or call 304-293-2311 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If students test positive, they will be referred to WVU s Positive Health Clinic.

Other options for local test sites include the Monongalia County Health Department and Milan Puskar Health Right Clinic.

Along with HIV testing, WVU Student Health Service provides comprehensive consultation and referral services to help students make healthier, safer choices. Health educators specialize in HIV /AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, sexual assault prevention and education, and alcohol and other drugs prevention and education.

More on the Net:http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/shs//healtheducators.htm

National AIDS Hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS (24 hours)