Fighting Poverty with Passion
Hey Internet! Welcome back!
Last week, I had the opportunity to complete my CTR training for the State of Louisiana. What is CTR you might ask? CTR stands for Counseling, Rapid Testing, and Referral Services, and is used in order to administer rapid HIV testing at authorized sites throughout the state. In order to be an official ‘counselor’ with the state, you must complete 12 hours of volunteer service at a public health organization, take your three day CTR training, pass a written exam, and then successfully administer a test with supervision.
I’ve become very interested in community health over the past year, and was very anxious to learn more at my CTR testing, which took place in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was a small group for this session, so it felt much more personal and less like a large, sterile classroom environment. While there myself and the other trainees were first educated on a wide range of pertinent information integral to being a responsible, mature, and knowledgeable tester. We learned about the history of HIV and AIDS, the myths and erroneous rumors surrounding the subject, the different strains of HIV, the state of HIV and AIDS here in Louisiana and across the country, the progression of HIV testing, as well as about the need for greater LGBT awareness in regards to fighting stigma and providing safe spaces for LGBT individuals (particularly young people, trans individuals, and individuals of color) throughout the state.
The two trainers, Vanessa and Rocky, did a great job at clarifying some of the ‘sticky’ details about how the virus is transmitted (as well as how it is not) and a variety of methods that individuals can use to not only protect themselves and others from contracting HIV, but other STIs as well. As a 23 year old male who just graduated from college in 2014, I had assumed I knew most everything about the various ways to protect yourself, but even I learned a number of tricks that make a huge difference in keeping transmission down.
After the education session, we performed several control tests of two different methods: OraQuick and Insti, which are widely used throughout the nation at hundreds of rapid HIV testing sites. The amount of careful precision and control that is needed to not only perform the test, but make sure the tests are in proper condition to be utilized, was a bit overwhelming. Keeping the testing kits at the right temperature, for the right period of time, without contamination, in the proper storage is as important as making sure to administer the test correctly and in a timely fashion. As someone who has had to wait for their HIV tests in the past for twenty nerve wracking minutes, it is a miracle of science that a test can be administered in ONE MINUTE now. Of course, a second and possible third confirmation might be needed if the first test comes back positive, but every second that keep the client from becoming nervous or scared is pretty priceless.
In the end, I’m excited to soon be volunteering with NO/AIDS and with other public health outreach centers here in New Orleans on an issue that I feel passionate about. Now just to pass the test! Wish me luck!