Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

N.C. Students, Faculty Address HIV Outbreak

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

N.C. Students, Faculty Address HIV Outbreak

Article excerpt

DURHAM, N.C.

More than 450 students and faculty from North Carolina's 12 historically Black colleges and universities recently gathered to discuss the alarming increase of HIV rates among Black students. "Stomp Out HIV/STDs," held on the weekend of March 20, was sponsored by North Carolina Central University and the N.C. Division of Public Health.

"Students were very open about talking and asking questions," said Tai Bryant, a second-year health education major at NCCU and a student coordinator of the event. "This is a wake-up call. We need to be more aggressive with our message to prevent HIV."

In the first documented outbreak of HIV on U.S. campuses, N.C. Division of Public Health researchers found that college students accounted for more than 1 in 5 of the new HIV infections among 18-to 30-year-olds.

Also, researchers found that of 84 newly infected male college students, 73 were Black. This represented 20 percent of the state's new HIV infections among 18- to 30-year-olds in the past three years. The cases were linked to 37 North Carolina colleges with ties to out-of-state colleges and universities.

The recent outbreak is the first documented case of HIV on U.S. college campuses. It was identified in late 2002 and is believed to have begun in mid-2001. North Carolina discovered the cases through a new way of testing for HIV that other states are not using yet, said Phyllis Gray, manager of the N.C. Division of Public Health's Minority AIDS Initiative.

"Part of the (HIV) problem with students is developmental," she said. "They're experimenting with alcohol and sex. They may be questioning their sexuality and want to try something they are thinking about. But they're taking risks with diseases for which there are no cures. They are young and think they are invincible and that it's not going to happen to them."

Gray said the findings necessitate an aggressive focus on HIV education among college students. According to Gray, Blacks make up about 21 percent of the state's population but account for almost 70 percent of all those infected with HIV. The high rate of HIV among Blacks lies in part because of the smaller percentage in the country, Gray said.

"It doesn't take a lot to create havoc and in time the problem is disproportionate," she said. …

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