HIV

HIV Testing, Prevention, and Treatment

Testing for the HIV antibody is open to everyone at Columbia:

  • Available for free to all students, their partners, staff, and faculty regardless of gender or orientation
  • Offered with convenient drop-in hours five days a week with next-day results
  • No appointment necessary
  • Client-centered peer counselors are sensitive to your situation, whether it’s your first test or routine testing. They will tailor the session to your needs
  • Our advocates welcome questions about HIV, STIs, vaccines, and safer sex
  • We are non-judgmental; our goal is to support you through your testing experience and to provide you with accurate information
  • We uphold strict levels of confidentiality; all counselors are HIPAA-certified

For those who are HIV positive, GHAP facilitates the HIV Positive Support Group, a confidential and friendly space for positive students where concerns about health, stigma, and disclosure are addressed, and students explore ways to cope and thrive.  

Drop-in Hours

During the academic year, Columbia Health offers drop-in hours for HIV antibody testing through the Gay Health Advocacy Project (GHAP), five days a week in John Jay Hall.

  • No appointment is required
  • Results are ready the following day
  • Students can contact GHAP at 212-854-6655 to arrange for testing at times other than the drop-in hours or for additional questions

At GHAP, we care about your privacy. At the Columbia Health reception desk on the third floor of John Jay, fill out the card labeled "We Care About Your Privacy," and write a first name (whatever name you want to be called) at the bottom. Indicate whether you are here:

  1. To get a test
  2. To pick up results for a test you had previously
  3. For another reason, by checking the appropriate response

Then, give the form to a patient services assistant behind the desk. Have a seat in the reception area and wait for an advocate to call the name you indicated on the form.

Consult with an Advocate

Even if you are not sure that you want a test, you can come in and talk with a peer advocate. Trained advocates from the Gay Health Advocacy Project will work with you to understand confusing and sometimes anxiety-provoking information about HIV and its transmission. We can help you assess and reduce your risk of HIV infection, and provide information about the transmission, treatment, and prevention of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well. Advocates are also trained to provide counseling about other topics.

Treatment and Support for HIV-positive Students

Columbia Health and GHAP staff work together to offer the clinical care, support, and information that HIV-positive students need to manage infection effectively. All services are covered under the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan, including:

  • Individualized care from an HIV specialist
  • Regular monitoring of CD4 and viral load
  • Medications
  • Preventative treatments
  • Psychological support, both individual and group

Note: For HIV-positive students who plan to study at Columbia, the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan provides coverage sufficient for HIV medication prescriptions, although you should choose the Platinum plan. If you have other insurance, we will help you connect to services that cover the costs. Contact GHAP by calling 212-854-6655 with questions.

For students with a known or likely exposure to HIV, GHAP can facilitate further testing, post-exposure prophylaxis, and professional support.

Pre- and Post-exposure Prophylaxis and Other Urgent Matters

Columbia Health offers pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is the use of an antiretroviral drug (Truvada) to prevent HIV infection in HIV-negative individuals at significant risk of becoming HIV-positive. Truvada has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in men who have sex with men, injection drug users, heterosexual cisgender women, and transgender women.

Columbia Health will provide all necessary medical services and prescriptions if you need PrEP. Columbia Health wants to be sure that your experience in obtaining PrEP is simple, non-judgmental, supportive, and fairly rapid, and that you receive all the support you need.

If you are enrolled in the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan, Truvada is covered. You may be eligible to receive reimbursement from the drug manufacturer for the copay. If you have a different insurance, it may pay for PrEP and we will assist you in getting insurance information.

Starting PrEP

The first step is to contact the Gay Health Advocacy Project at Columbia Health Medical Services.

PrEP requires a prescription, a daily pill, and a health care provider visit with blood tests four times a year. Long-term side effects are generally minimal and are monitored by blood tests of kidney function.

You may want to consider PrEP if your sexual partner(s) are positive or if you are in a higher-risk group (including men who have sex with men and trans women) and do not use a condom every time you have anal or vaginal intercourse.

Please Contact GHAP using our secure online system or call 212-854-6655 for further information or to start the process of using PrEP to protect yourself.

Post-exposure prophylaxis is treatment with anti-retroviral medication that can prevent an HIV infection from taking hold. It must be initiated within 72 hours of exposure—the sooner, the better.

The need to initiate PEP is considered a medical emergency. Please contact us 24/7 at 212-854-7426.