Despite the promotion of safe sex on college campuses, rates of HIV diagnoses continue to rise among youth and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College Health Association, 1 in 500 college students are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, most college students do not feel that they are at risk for the infection.
Over time, HIV can develop into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). While HIV progresses to full-blown AIDS, viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria can cause opportunistic infections, and can make the HIV positive person more ill. Peer pressure, lack of maturity, alcohol and drug use are few of the factors that put college students at a greater risk of contracting the virus. Neglecting to practice safe sex can lead to possible contraction of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
The rise of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among college students should in no way be underestimated. Sadly, there are many people who are living with the disease and are unaware of it. At least half of all new HIV cases in the United States are among people under the age of 25. Although the majority of young people contract HIV through intercourse it is also spread through blood and breast milk. It is not passed through social contact; and therefore, kissing an infected person is not a known risk.
This epidemic has drastically affected college campuses in the country and around the world for nearly three decades; however, its effect may be reversed through education and prevention efforts. Universities and colleges play a major role in educating young people, faculty, staff and communities about HIV/AIDS and it will prepare future researchers, teachers and public health professionals. For example, there are a number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that are participating in efforts to promote HIV awareness across their campuses.
In 2012, Morehouse College held activities on campus in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Activities included HIV testing for students, participation in the Greater Than AIDS “Deciding Moments” photo initiative, a candlelight vigil and a panel discussion.
These efforts are crucial, given the fact that African Americans are disproportionately affected by the HIV infection. In 2009, African Americans made up only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections during that year.
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments and medications that help people live normal lives. 92 percent of campuses have an official budget for HIV/AIDS education, meaning most colleges have facilities on campus that offer medical services, such as testing for HIV, AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and birth control.
However, there is more progress to be made. Of the few colleges that offer testing, only 3/4 offer it for free. The first step in addressing misconceptions about the virus and AIDS is to seek accurate medical advice.