LGBTQ+ workshop aims to challenge HIV myths

Angelica Tejada

As part of LGBTQ+ History Month, “Debunking HIV Discussion” cleared the misconceptions and offered real-life help from the Office of Health and Wellness on Oct. 15, where gathered presenters had an open discussion on eliminating human immunodeficiency virus stigmas and the effects they have on the LGBTQ+ community.

Surrounding HIV, there are myths and misconceptions from how it is spread from one person to another to who it affects.

These false claims have led many to become misinformed on the virus. Baruch freshman Joy Del Gigante, who attended the event, said that she learned “that HIV is not contagious by spittle or saliva,” which was something she always thought was true. When one of the presenters asked who in the room has met someone with HIV, about half of the audience members raised their hands.

“HIV is everywhere and there isn’t an exact face or kind of person to it, anyone can have it,” said physician assistant at the Baruch Student Health Care Center, Dr. Linda Jean-Baptiste.

The Student Health Care Center offers HIV testing at a discounted price for students. Students can also talk to the nurse practitioner or physician assistant at the Counseling Center if they are suspecting any kind of illness, not just HIV related. 

Individuals can also seek sexual health services at the Montefiore Medical Center, where free STI, STD and HIV testing is offered.

“A lot of times people are encountered with this and they freak out, they think they have to wait two days or three months,” Montefiore Medical Center representative Chelsea Andrews said. “At the clinic, people are given the right instructions on what to do.”

Recently, HIV medications have become more advanced and new methods of combating the illness have been introduced.

According to the Center for Diseases Control, Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,  is when individuals take daily a combination of two HIV medicines that are sold under the name as Truvada to prevent getting HIV from someone who is HIV positive. Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP,  is taking antiretroviral medicines within 72 hours after possible exposure to HIV.

Jean-Baptiste said that the discussion “is on debunking the stigma around HIV even now that there are PrEP and PEP and all these medications. The stigma around HIV, it’s a problem.”This discussion took place during LGTBQ+ History Month because it held a significance.

“People within the LGTBQ+ community are the most targeted demographic when it comes to HIV,” said Andrews. “The different preventative methods for HIV is not only important for the people within that community but for those who do not have a community.”

“People tend to go off what their doctors say and textbooks and stuff. These are real-life situations where things happen, and people mess up. There are ways and steps people can take to prevent contracting the virus and move forward without panicking,” added Andrews.