Long Island Newsday Examines HIV ‘Cluster’ Among Black Male College Students in North CarolinaLong Island Newsday on Wednesday examined a recent study that revealed an HIV outbreak among black male college students in North Carolina, a trend that Dr. Peter Leone, an HIV/AIDS researcher with the state Department of Health and Human Services and a study co-author, has called a "potential genocidal issue" among young black men (Susman, Long Island Newsday, 8/18). In the study, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill researchers analyzed state HIV surveillance records for new diagnoses of HIV infection occurring between Jan. 1, 2001, and May 1, 2003, in males younger than age 30 living in 34 North Carolina counties. Researchers compared reported risk behavior and demographic information for newly diagnosed male college attendees with newly diagnosed non-college males. The study began after the state health department identified two men attending different colleges in the same city who had recently become infected. Both men had high HIV viral loads but no antibodies to the virus, which is an indication of recent infection because the body usually produces antibodies about two weeks following infection. Since November 2002, North Carolina has used a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test to detect early stage HIV infections. Health department officials interviewed the two men, asking for the names of their sexual partners within the previous year. Researchers found six HIV cases among male college students ages 18 to 30 in 2000; 19 cases in 2001; 29 in 2002; and 30 in 2003. Of the 84 total new cases during that period, 73, or 88%, were among black men, and 11, or 13%, were among white men (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/11).
"There has never been a description of a cluster of HIV cases among college students like this, ever," Leone said, adding, "It is not a good foretelling of where HIV is moving. This is the next wave." The study's results indicate that there is a racial disparity in the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States, where 12% of the population is black, but blacks accounted for 54% of new HIV cases in 2002, according to CDC. In addition, the study has "force[d]" the black community to confront issues such as homosexuality, which is often "ignored or hushed up," because "few black college men feel comfortable admitting to being gay or bisexual, particularly in the conservative South," according to Newsday. That denial can impede prevention efforts and contribute to the spread of HIV, Newsday reports. However, since the study, several North Carolina colleges and public schools have "beefed up" their HIV/AIDS education programs, according to Newsday (Long Island Newsday, 8/18).