The MultiCultural Center will be providing free anonymous HIV testing for all students this Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The process used – Rapid HIV Testing – takes about 20 minutes and involves a quick mouth swab. Tests are completely anonymous, as all results will be attached to numbers rather than to names. Additionally, Pacific Pride Foundation will be standing by to provide free and confidential counseling to students who may have questions or concerns.

Rebekah Meredith, program director of the MCC, said she encourages students to get tested this Thursday.

“It’s important that students get tested so they can know their status,” Meredith said. “The technology and medicine behind HIV/AIDS has advanced so much that early detection can really help infected individuals live a long, relatively healthy life.”

John and Janice Baldwin, the husband and wife team behind the Sociology 152 series in human sexuality, said they are staunch supporters of the HIV rapid test since a high percentage of HIV carriers do not know they are infected.

“25 percent of HIV carriers do not know they are HIV positive,” John Baldwin said. “It means you could go to bed with someone and they can tell you in all honesty that they are not infected, when in fact they are just not aware of it.”

“It’s a fallible method,” Janice Baldwin said. “Getting tested and making sure your partner gets tested is crucial.”

In addition to regular testing, the Baldwins stressed employing protection to prevent the contraction of HIV. According to their research, 50 to 55 percent of UCSB heterosexual students use condoms 100 percent of the time during sexual intercourse and 12 percent of students always uses condoms during anal sex.

“Anal sex is one of the easiest ways to contract HIV, and heterosexual couples are just not protecting themselves,” John Baldwin said. “80 percent of gay couples use protection during anal sex, so it’s time for heterosexual couples to start doing the same.”

This August, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 56,300 people were infected with HIV in 2006, which is roughly 40 percent higher than the center’s previous estimate of 40,000.

Meredith said the free HIV testing program is being offered for the second year at the MCC thanks to the support of their co-sponsors, the African Diasporic Cultural Resource Center, Pacific Pride Foundation, Residential Life, Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, UCSB Student Health and the Women’s Center.

“Several of these departments have representatives who serve in the ‘HIV/AIDS Working Group,'” Meredith said. “This group was started last year in an effort to address HIV/AIDS concerns on campus, and is responsible for the three AIDS testing days in the past year.”