African American College Students Opinions of Media Messages on HIV/AIDS Awareness: Students' Attitudes toward the Disease

Article excerpt

This study is motivated by other studies conducted at colleges on the HIV/AIDS, particularly ones pertaining to African American students attending HBCUs in the southern region of the country. Although previous studies also focused on the same topic, this study primarily investigates mainly the effect of information dispersed by the media on the students' knowledge and awareness of the HIV/AIDS. The students' level of knowledge is as measured with their perceptions of how media messages have elevated their awareness of this infectious disease.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; immunodeficiency; African American College Students; health communication

Introduction

The spread of HIV/AIDS on college campuses has been a subject of much research in recent years. Studies show that the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) infections among college students is on the raise due to their risky sexual behaviors (e.g., inconsistent use of condoms and multiple sex partners), mostly under the influence of drugs and alcohol consumption (CDC, 2004; Poulson, R.L., et al., 1995; Hightow, L.B. et al., 2005).

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2004 reported an increase of HIV cases among black male college students in North Carolina who had homosexual encounters, named MSM (male having sex with male). The study's participants provided various reasons for their risk-taking sexual behavior. Their initial explanation of such conduct was the lack of sustained, preventive messages targeting young blacks. Other justifications expressed by the participants suggest that they perceived themselves to be immune to the disease and held the belief that their partners' HIV status was determined by their looks and physical characteristics. Johnson, Gilbert, and Lollis in their 1994 study of African American college students with HIV/AIDS and their risk taking sexual behavior, indicated that those infected individuals shown significant deficit in HIV/AIDS awareness, specifically transmission of the HIV virus.

According to the above studies, African American college students reported a lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS to be one major reason for their continuing practice of risky sexual behavior. Thus, it is crucial that the public in general, and youth in particular, become better informed about these insidious diseases. This study examined the role of the media as a primary source of information for disseminating critical knowledge on HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention to young people. In addition, it investigated the young college students' awareness of the disease and their sexual conduct concerning this epidemic.

The approach taken in investigating the problem focuses on three elements. First, media involvement in raising the public awareness of HIV/AIDS is insufficient. Secondly, media messages in HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns could broaden young people's knowledge about the epidemic and encourage them to practice safe sex. Thirdly, students practicing unprotected sex put them at risk of becoming infected.

This research is significant since it brings knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS to college students where the problem can be readily discussed and effectively dealt with is motivated by other studies conducted at colleges on the above issues, particularly ones pertaining to African American students attending HBCUs in the southern region of the country. Therefore, this concept is extended to learn about attitudes concerning this epidemic by other students' attending another HBCU. Although previous studies also focused on the same topic, this study investigates mainly the effect of information dispersed by the media on the students' knowledge and awareness toward HIV/AIDS. The students' level of knowledge is as measured together with their perceptions of how media messages have elevated their awareness about this infectious disease. …