2 out of 1,000 infected with HIV

By Stewart Warren

About 44 NIU students could test positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

Carol Sibley, communicable disease coordinator at the University Health Service, agreed with a year-long, 19-campus study’s findings that two out of every 1,000 students are infected with the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). “I always figured there were at least 50 students on campus that were HIV-positive,” she said.

The 44-student figure is based on NIU’s fall 1988 enrollment of 22,463 students. Current enrollment figures are not yet available from NIU’s Institutional Research Office.

The study, detailed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, was conducted by the American College Health Service’s Center for Disease Control.

These findings are significant because many students testing HIV positive have not developed symptoms yet, but they are still able to pass the virus to others. The study tested 16,861 anonymous blood samples drawn for other reasons by campus health services.

Sibley said it is impossible to know whether NIU is precisely typical of the schools included in the study, unless every student on campus was tested.

However, Sibley said the figures sound applicable to NIU “considering that our population is from the city area, and they do have a higher rate (of AIDS) there,” she said.

AIDS tests are administered anonymously at the health center by Sibley for a $20 fee. Although no one has tested positive yet, Sibley said, “that doesn’t mean we don’t have any students here that are positive; it just means they weren’t tested here.”

Sibley said she has counseled two NIU students that are HIV positive, but neither student was tested at NIU.

“A lot of the ones I’ve been testing are not the highest risk groups. A lot of them are people who have concerns, but they aren’t in the highest risk category,” Sibley said.

Unfortunately, many college students feel AIDS cannot affect them, Sibley said. When she encourages certain students to be tested for the HIV antibodies, “the majority of them don’t get tested because it’s not real to them yet.”

“Anybody who is treated for other sexually transmitted diseases has to consider they are at risk for HIV infection, because the way they are transmitted are oftentimes the same,” Sibley said.

The DeKalb County Health Department administers anonymous, free AIDS tests. Six people have tested positive in the past two-and-a-half years.

Tana Knetsch, communicable disease coordinator for the health department, said NIU students comprise 50 percent of the people she tests. Many people just don’t think they are threatened by AIDS, she said.

Some people she counsels do not think it is possible their partners could pass AIDS on to them. Knetsch said her clients will say “Oh, I just know he or she doesn’t have AIDS” when without testing, there is no way to know.