Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Important Allies in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy
Universities and colleges play an important role in the nation’s response to HIV/AIDS—educating young people; preparing the next generations of health care providers, researchers, teachers, and public health professionals; conducting research that helps us improve our response; and even educating their faculty, staff and communities about HIV/AIDS.
In fact, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy points specifically to education institutions as vital partners in reaching the Strategy’s goals. A number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are engaged in significant efforts to educate students and promote HIV awareness across their campuses. These efforts are particularly important given that African Americans face a very severe and disproportionate burden of HIV disease in the United States. Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year, according to the CDC. Alarmingly, CDC also reports that more new HIV infections occurred among 13–29 year-old black gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (MSM) than any other age and racial group of MSM; further, new HIV infections among young black MSM are trending up, increasing by 48% from 2006–2009. Of the total number of new HIV infections in U.S. women in 2009, 57% occurred in blacks, and the rate of new HIV infections among black women in 2009 was 15 times that of white women. These realities make the HIV prevention efforts of the nation’s HBCUs all the more important.
Morehouse College Takes on HIV and Hosts White House Conference
HIV awareness efforts are not, however, only a once a year activity at Morehouse. Among the organizers of the campus-wide NBHAAD activities was Health Educators of Morehouse (HEM), which engages fellow students on HIV/AIDS awareness year round through the facilitation of panels and the delivery of condoms to students on campus. HEM has also successfully advocated for increased availability of HIV and STI testing on campus. Also, last Thursday, April 18, 2012, Morehouse was the site of the White House LGBT Conference on HIV/AIDS . Hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Office of National AIDS Policy in partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine, the one-day conference provided advocates, community leaders, and members of the public an opportunity to engage in conversation with representatives of the Obama Administration on issues related to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) and associated HIV/AIDS-related health disparities.
Strengthening HIV Prevention at Other HBCUs
Among the many activities underway at the HBCUs, Southern University has created a “HIV 101” module for an introductory health course mandated for all incoming freshman students. At Ft. Valley, they are adapting two of the DEBIs —evidence-based behavioral interventions that have showed positive behavioral (e.g., use of condoms; reduction in number of partners) and/or health outcomes—Nia for male students and SISTA workshops for female students. Jackson State is also tailoring another DEBI, Popular Opinion Leaders , for the young men on campus while also recruiting and training new peer health educators. North Carolina Central is engaged in a social marketing campaign that delivers HIV prevention information to students via multiple channels including a webpage, Twitter, and print materials as well as adapting SISTA for its female students.
These are just some examples of how HBCUs are responding to HIV/AIDS. What’s happening in your community to educate young people about HIV/AIDS? If you are at an HBCU, how is it addressing HIV? If you are in the community, how are you encouraging and assisting local colleges and universities in their efforts to educate students? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
AIDS.gov team member Naima Cozier contributed to this blog post.