African-American Educational Institutions Must Break Silence on HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
African-American educational institutions "can no longer maintain their silence" surrounding the "deadly crisis" of HIV/AIDS following reports of a "startling rise" in the number of HIV cases among black, male college students, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial says (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/12). North Carolina public health officials at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in February presented the findings of a study that showed an HIV outbreak among black, male college students in the state. Researchers found six HIV cases among male college students ages 18 to 30 in 2000, 19 cases in 2001, 29 cases in 2002 and 30 cases in 2003. Of the 84 total new cases during that period, 73 cases -- or 88% -- were among black men, and 11 cases -- or 13% -- were among white men (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/11). Although the "shocking numbers" have prompted officials at North Carolina's historically black colleges to offer more HIV testing and to gather at a conference next week to discuss the situation, college administrators elsewhere are "ducking the issue rather than taking a bullhorn to sound an alarm," according to the editorial. Instead of openly discussing gay sex, which "remains a taboo in the black community," young black men are "getting the loud and clear message from the mainstream African-American institutions that homosexuality is a sin and that AIDS is a shame-based disease," the Journal-Constitution says. Therefore, some young men "kee[p] their gay life clandestine and slee[p] with girlfriends to appear straight," while underestimating their risk of HIV infection and receiving little information about the disease on their college campuses, the editorial says, concluding that these men "end up playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with their health ... [and] many of them are losing" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.