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Campus groups promoting STI awareness

By Chasmon Gatewood
On April 23, 2014

One night of unprotected sex can turn into a lifetime mistake.

It's likely that most college students don't know that nearly 1 in 4 new HIV infec­tions are among youth ages 13-24.

However organizations and researchers at Winston-Salem State are working to increase awareness on campus.

There are 13 National HIV/ AIDS awareness days. WSSU and Forsyth County's HIV prevention program POSSE participated in the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7.

POSSE -- Prevent Ongoing Spread of STIs everywhere -- offer free HIV testing.

"In 2010 African Americans accounted for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. This age group is the primary target that's why we [Bacchus and Gamma] work hard to make sure that students realize that HIV is very prevalent out here," said Michael Isler, nurse and peer health educator adviser of Bacchus and Gamma.

Bacchus and Gamma is an international peer education association amongst colleges and universities. Isler said the student's roles in the organi­zation are to be trained peer educators able to recognize the signs and symptoms of HIV and STDs and share information correctly.

HIV statistics are confiden­tial but they're not very high here [WSSU], he said.

"Statistically on all cam­puses chlamydia is the high­est contracted STD. Herpes is beginning to be a big one on college campuses."

Naomi Hall-Byers, an associate professor of psychological sciences and HIV researcher said, "African American youth have a disproportionate high rate of HIV infection.

"College campuses are a hot bed for high-risk activity. Consequently, it is important to do research on HIV preven­tion at the University."

She said research is not costly and can be done solely with student and faculty par­ticipation.

However, Byers likes to pro­vide an incentive when stu­dents participate in research or discussions. She said she noticed providing gift cards or food increased student's par­ticipation.

"It's a good idea to conduct research on campus because we're our own community, and we need to know what's going on," said Virginia Parker, senior psychology major from Fayetteville.

She said, she doesn't think that students take having unprotected sex seriously until they realize they have con­tracted an infection or disease. She has participated in a few HIV/STD prevention events on campus.

Byers said, "HIV is not the death sentence it used to be."

"People live long full lives, get married and have chil­dren."

She said college students should get tested yearly, and those with high risk -- prone to drug use, alcoholism and one -night stands -- get tested semi-annually.

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