HIV Testing in College Students

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College students and young adults have always viewed themselves as invincible. Human immunodeficiency virus is something they think happens to someone else. According to the CDC, over half of the new cases diagnosed as HIV come from people between the ages of 18-24. Over 75% of heterosexual young adults also do not feel they are at risk for contracting HIV. Many college campuses offer free or reduced cost testing and the results can be anonymous. Unfortunately, increased knowledge about HIV infection does not seem to increase the numbers of college students seeking testing. Many college students have knowledge about HIV infection, but it does not seem to influence their risky sexual behaviors or need to get HIV testing. By connecting with college students and giving them information pertinent to their lifestyle reductions in new cases of HIV can be found.

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HIV Teaching Population

College students are a diverse group but are mostly composed of young adults from the ages of 18-24 years of age. A higher percentage of college students are female compared to male (Lin, Roy, Dam, & Coman, 2017). According to the US Census Bureau, 10.9 million women were enrolled in college, compared to only 8.5 million males. Most of the college students will be composed of non-Hispanic white race individuals with some Hispanic and Black populations also. Two-thirds of students attending college use some sort of financial assistance in the form of grants or loans and many live around the poverty level while completing college degrees.  The population we would be teaching would be from a multitude of different religions and some would have no religious preference at all.

Learning Barriers to HIV Testing

College students are a unique teaching group with their own set of limitations. College students have a sense of invincibility where they understand about the disease but do not view it as a serious health concern that can happen to them. College students have a high incidence of unprotected sexual encounters and risky behaviors such as overindulging in alcohol which can lower their inhibition and many also have multiple sexual partners increasing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Even with these risk factors many college students do not believe testing is necessary unless the person believes they may have contracted the infection.

College students also face the social stigma of peers finding out they are getting tested or may even come up positive with a diagnosis. The peer pressure this age bracket faces of who will find out and what they will think weighs heavily on their self esteem. They may also feel guilt at receiving a positive diagnosis in having unprotected sex and what they may have done to others, so they adopt a self-denial attitude and delay or never get testing done.

Another barrier this population finds to testing is where to have testing done and the cost of paying for the tests. Many college students are without insurance and do not feel the necessity to seek out places to find testing. Students are not aware of the availability at college campuses for free or reduced cost HIV testing. Many campuses offer a rapid test that can give results in around twenty minutes and the results will remain anonymous (Nettleman & David, 2011). College students will not willingly search out information for testing, so campuses need to broadcast more the opportunity for students to receive the testing and what the costs of the testing will be for students.

Teaching Methods for HIV Testing

Human immunodeficiency virus is a progressive disease that carries a big social stigma. College students have many different learning styles so multiple methodologies are used to accommodate different learners. One of the teaching methods will incorporate a power point which will appeal to the learning style of visual learners and reinforce the concepts of what HIV is and why getting tested is very important for this age bracket. A power point encompasses printed information and pictures to reinforce information that will be presented. A pamphlet will also be used to give information about HIV infection such as signs and symptoms, when testing should be done, and where college students can go to get testing done. The pamphlet will appeal to visual learners and will give a brief presentation of information for students that have shorter attention spans and want information presented to them in a quick learning format. This will also answer the questions of where students can go to get the testing done and places that will do the testing for free or very low cost.

College students will not actively seek out this information, so the pamphlet placed in common areas around the college campus can offer a quick and easy method for students to obtain this information and it can remain anonymous. Students do not want their friends or other classmates finding out about testing, so this can offer an anonymous way to obtain the information that is essential to good health. The last learning method for college students is a video and song which will have music that appeals to their generation and can connect with them on a level that is familiar to them. The song and video will appeal to visual and auditory learning styles in a popular culture format that is fun and engaging. By connecting with students on an entertaining and fun format, information can be presented that may make them think that HIV can happen to them or someone they may know. Students feel that they are invincible, and this kind of disease will not affect them. It can present information on a level that they can connect with personally in a format that is engaging and informative.


College students are a very diverse but educated population group. Having education regarding the disease process of human immunodeficiency virus does not make this population more apt to get testing for the disease. This population group views themselves as invincible and not at risk for getting this disease despite several risky behaviors such as binge drinking and multiple sexual partners. College students also have a big fear of their peers finding out a positive diagnosis and will avoid testing to remain in denial of their diagnosis. Another obstacle that this age group has is not knowing where to go or how to pay for testing. College students live in an age of quick information and will not spend a great deal of time searching.

Since college students have a multitudes of learning styles, printed, auditory, and interactive learning styles will need to be implemented to capture all learners. The choice of a PowerPoint, pamphlet, and a video with a song can access all the different types of learners. College students also need something that can catch their attention such as music in an informative manner. HIV testing is something that should be included for every young adult at an annual health examination and we need to make it a more regular test to remove the stigma that is attached to the term HIV. With early diagnosis and treatment many of these adults can live full, active lives with just simple precautions in their daily living.


  1. Lin, C., Roy, D., Dam, L., & Coman, E. (2017). College students and HIV testing: cognitive, emotional self-efficacy, motivational and communication factors. Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 10(4), 250-259. Retrieved from
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2018). HIV/AIDS – Symptoms and Causes. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic:
  3. Nettleman, M. M., & David, G. M. (2011, January). Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1 Infected Individuals. Retrieved from United States Department of Health and Human Services:
  4. Preventing Sexual Transmission of HIV. (2018, October). Retrieved from
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HIV Testing In College Students. (2020, Mar 10). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from

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