Swine flu has caught the attention of many this flu season, but another disease is devastating the black community: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. With the rate of persons contracting the AIDS virus crippling the 15-24 age group, first year students of Grambling State University attended a lecture of HIV/AIDS on Oct.1 at the Assembly Center. The event was organized by the Campus AIDS Prevention group.
A large number of students attended the presentation that was conducted by Tiffaney Renfro and Anita Washington, health trainers from the Rollins School of Public Health Emory University in Atlanta.
Dana Howard, an employee of the GSU Housing Department and chair of Campus AIDS Prevention (CAP), opened the hour long session by welcoming students.
Howard reminded the students that approximately one billion people are living with the virus around the world and these sessions are aimed at equipping individuals with knowledge as to how we can protect ourselves, families, friends and other associates. According to the Center for Disease Control African American women are four times likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than there Caucasian counterparts.
The speakers told the students that more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS across the globe and some 60, 000 persons become infected every year. It was stressed that African Americans accounts for 49 percent of the overall estimated infected cases.
AIDS is the last stage of human immunodeficiency virus. Transmission of this disease can involve anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.
Although HIV/AIDS is clearly of epidemic status in the African American community there is still no direct federal response to this problem.
In enlightening the students about local statistics, Renfro informed the students that AIDS is rampant in the U.S. and approximately 6,800 people are diagnosed with the disease annually.
What was more troubling, Renfro said, is that the 15-24 age group is highly at risk. Statistics also revealed that men to men transmission account for over 40 percent of the overall diagnosed cases and the virus is predominantly spread from females. According to the educators, approximately 5, 700 persons died from the disease daily and students were encouraged not to become a statistic. The presenters reminded the students that education is key in preventing the spread of this disease. According to Washington, the more informed a person is, the better choices they will be able to make, which may save their life.
There may be a glimmer of hope when dealing with this dark disease. There is a new trial vaccine that was tested in Thailand by the Thai Ministry of Health on 16,000 people ranging from the ages of 18-30.
According to the Thai Ministry of Health, the half that received the six vaccines were shown to be 31 percent effective to be less likely to contract HIV. Some success, however, doesn’t indicate a reason to refrain from getting tested. The vaccine was only tested for strains of HIV in Thailand and it hasn’t been determined how it will work on other parts of the world.
“I think it’s a good thing because millions have died and even though everyone won’t be saved now that it’s a cure it’s still a business and doctors want money” was how Jeremiah Givens weighed in his thoughts about the new vaccine. The results of every test the Thai Ministry on Health tried dealing with HIV/AIDS will not be available until later this month at the AIDS Vaccine Conference.
The students were reminded that one cannot identify an HIV/AIDS victim by just looking at them and the only sure way to confirm a person’s status is by taking an AIDS test, which can be done at the GSU Infirmary free of cost to all registered students.
CAP stressed getting tested for HIV/AIDS and becoming a mentor. A recent study by the Black AIDS Institute concluded that possibly as high as 50 percent of African Americans don’t know there HIV status. Campus AIDS Prevention seeks to make it easier for GSU students to find out there status.
Students were encouraged to sign up for a training session to become an HIV/AIDS peer counselor. Training will be held later this month and there is no cost to participate in the training.