by Eryka Villarreal
Party Safe is an educational campaign is collaborating with the Bienestar Coalition and is a unique collaboration with the Communication Studies Department at Texas State that offers information about HIV.
Department Chair of Communication Studies Dr. Melinda Villagran has paired up with the Bienestar Coalition, which is a federally funded grant program to address the rising numbers of 18-24-year-old Latinos attracting HIV in this country as a result of substance use and high risk sexual behaviors.
Senior Grant Specialist for the Bienestar Coalition Marsha Burney says ‘Party Safe’ falls under the umbrella of Bienestar Coalition to create awareness about HIV and AIDS to encourage people that if they partake in extracurricular activities such as drinking and sexual relations that they are being safe in the way that they do so.
“What we push are the different steps to take for responsible drinking and responsible partying as well as making sure that you are protecting yourself if you’re engaging in sexual behaviors,” said Burney.
Dr. Villagran says that students who are impaired tend to make bad decisions and with that can come with negative impacts such as HIV.
“Nationally, about 1 in 9 people between the ages of 13 and 24 has HIV. On our campus, you can do the math…that’s a lot of people,” said Villagran. “The Office of Disability Services works with students who have HIV and have specific needs related to their care and their education.”
Dr. Villagran says there are a lot of students registered with the Office of Disability Services and there are a lot more students who have HIV that are not registered because they feel stigmatized or they feel that they don’t want to share that information.
“We estimate that at least 600 students on our campus have HIV currently and I believe that number is much greater,” said Villagran.
Bienestar Coalition granted ‘Party Safe’ with a big initiative. Dr. Villagran says they’re focusing specifically on HIV and voiding the risk of hooking up while impaired.
“HIV on this campus is something people don’t often put with drinking, but we often think that HIV is a disease that will impact someone else, not me,” said Villagran. “I’m a student, I’m young, i’m straight, i’m a female, but the truth is, every single person that is sexually active is at risk for HIV.”
‘Party Safe’ is offering testing events that are allowing all students to get free, confidential HIV tests at the LBJ student center every Tuesday of this month and next month from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.
Valentine’s day is right around the corner, and there is no better way to show your loved one that you care than to go get a free and confidential HIV test.