Georgia: Forum Focuses on HIV Threat
March 19, 2004
The threat of HIV in the black community could be more devastating than the numerous social and economic challenges African Americans have had to face, according to Joel Harrell, vice president for student affairs at Clark Atlanta University. Harrell spoke Tuesday to hundreds of students at the predominantly black university's first major HIV/AIDS awareness event, sponsored by CDC.
The forum also marked a first for CDC, which may sponsor similar events at other black colleges. It came just one month after North Carolina health officials released a study showing that of 84 male college students newly infected with HIV in the state over four years, 73 were black and of those, 67 said they had sex with men, and 27 of them reported also having female partners. Health officials say that trend is also likely occurring in Georgia and throughout the South, but it cannot be proved because Georgia and some other states only recently began tracking HIV data.
Homophobia is fueling the HIV epidemic among blacks, said Dr. David Satcher, director of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine and a former US surgeon general and CDC director. Satcher said treating gays as outcasts and lowering their self-esteem "is a perfect setup for irresponsible behavior." "We need to face up to the fact that there is diversity in sexual orientation."
The students, some of whom said HIV and homosexuality are rarely discussed on campus, welcomed the attention to the issue. "We need more forums like this on a constant basis so we're always hearing about it," said Aaron Jones, a senior at Clark Atlanta, "even though people don't like to hear about it."
03.17.04; David Wahlberg
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.