HIV/AIDS Prevention Efforts at Bowie State University
By April C. Thornton
When we hear the words HIV and AIDS an indescribable feeling comes over us. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is featured in the newspapers we flip through and publicized on popular television shows that we eagerly watch. There we see student's just like us sharing their heartbreaking story about being HIV positive. After hearing their story we sympathize with how they contracted the virus, and how it could've easily been us.
To acknowledge HIV and AIDS Awareness week, BSU student organization Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug (ATOD) Prevention Center, Nationally Certified Peer Educators on HIV and AIDS went to various classes to educate students about the virus and encouraged them to know their status. They gave a power point presentation that shined a light on what the virus, prevention efforts, ways the virus can be contracted, risk factors and other helpful information. At the end of the presentation, students were asked to fill out an evaluation about the presentation. Nationally Certified Peer Educator on HIV and AIDS Brittany Summers, a junior Communications major, said that students have actually said that the presentation was beneficial.
Even though the ATOD Prevention Center has made it their number one priority to educate students about the virus, staff members said students are not taking advantage of the free HIV and AIDS testing at the Wellness Center.
Statistics indicate that people under the age of 25 do not know their status. Writer Francis Mawanda, who wrote the online article HIV/AIDS Prevention: Time for Change, said "to date, it is estimated that more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and more than 25 million people have died as a result of HIV/AIDS worldwide." Statistics also show that African Americans account for almost half the number of people living with HIV.
Dr. Rita Wutoh, who has been director of the Henry Wise Wellness Center for two years, said that of the 5,600 students at Bowie State University "approximately 5 percent of students have taken advantage of the free HIV testing available at the Wellness Center in the past year. Of those tested, 75 percent were female and 25 percent were male."
Why are students declining to take advantage of the health services available on campus? The fact of the matter is that students are afraid to know their status because they do not practice safe sex all the time. Students know the risk factors of HIV and AIDS, but they never think won't become infected with the virus.
Students are advised to take health precautions such as practicing safe sex, and make sure your tattoo artist is using a new needle before getting a tattoo. Remember HIV and AIDS is not only contracted through unprotected sex.
Dr. Wutoh encouraged students to get tested for HIV and AIDS. "HIV/AIDS are a treatable illness. The earlier someone finds out they have HIV, the more likely that they will be able to have a longer and healthier life," she said. "In addition, if you know your HIV status you can break the cycle of infecting someone else."