College Students in Georgia Work As Peer Educators To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness Among Blacks
Students at Savannah State University are being trained as peer educators in an effort to increase awareness about the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on young blacks in the U.S., the Savannah Morning News reports. Since 2005, a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has allowed the university's Department of Criminal Justice and Social and Behavioral Sciences to train students to be peer educators in a campus HIV/AIDS prevention program. Peer educators present statistics and films and invite guest speakers who are living with HIV/AIDS to inform students of the effect that the disease is having in the black community. According to the Georgia Department of Human Resources, blacks make up 75% of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state but only 30% of the population. In addition, AIDS-related illnesses are the fourth-leading cause of death among blacks ages 20 to 44 in the state.
The peer education program targets freshman students and promotes abstinence, as well as avoidance of drugs and alcohol. The program also offers HIV testing on campus four times annually. Daniel Coleman, a lead peer educator, said he sees substance use, particularly alcohol use, as the biggest risk factor for unsafe sexual behavior. Johnnie Myers, a professor who leads the campus HIV/AIDS program, said, "The problem is much larger than we think it is. But we're making a difference. Last year, after speaking with students, 83% said they would change their behavior" (Few, Savannah Morning News, 10/13).