(Bowie, Md.) – Nov. 22, 2013 – Bowie State University is set to launch an initiative aimed at reducing and preventing substance abuse and the spread of HIV among young African Americans in Prince George’s County – targeting an area with Maryland’s second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS cases.
“Spread the Word, Not the Virus,” will reach African-American college students ages 18-24, a group disproportionately affected by HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Funded by a new $888,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the program will be implemented by Bowie State’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Prevention Center and the Maryland Center at Bowie State University, a nonprofit organization supporting the university’s educational, research and service activities.
“Our focus is working with Bowie State students and other young adults in communities surrounding the university to increase healthy behaviors that reduce their risk of infection or other negative outcomes related to substance abuse,” says ATOD Director Vanessa Cooke.
The comprehensive program combines peer education, awareness events, increased access to HIV screenings and condom distribution. Bowie State has worked with students on campus for the past six years to educate them about the risks associated with unprotected sex and substance abuse. The increased funding over the next three years will enable the program to expand into the community to serve more than 5,000 young adults.
“The wide-spread nature of the problem underscores the importance of bringing together the expertise of Bowie State University’s faculty and students to make a significant impact on a serious public health issue,” said President Mickey L. Burnim.
Maryland ranks seventh in the country for the number of new HIV infections, and African-Americans have the highest number of new infections of any ethnic group, according to the CDC.
“Because of the growing numbers of HIV cases in the county and state, our community needs this outreach program now more than ever to prevent new infections,” Cooke said. “The only way to stop this epidemic is through the education of our citizens.”
ABOUT BOWIE STATE UNIVERSITY
Bowie State University (BSU) is an important higher education access portal for qualified persons from diverse academic and socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking a high-quality and affordable public comprehensive university. The University places special emphasis on the science, technology, teacher education, business, and nursing disciplines within the context of a liberal arts education. For more information about BSU, visit the website at www.bowiestate.edu.