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Researchers Find Growing Number of HIV Cases at North Carolina Colleges

Researchers Find Growing Number of HIV Cases at North Carolina Colleges


Researchers are alarmed by a recent outbreak of the HIV virus among college students in North Carolina in which 53 male students — most of them Black — have contracted the virus.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and state researchers say the figures for the first time in two decades of HIV research identify college campuses as high-transmission areas for the virus that causes AIDS.

“This is a first indication that there may be a resurgence of HIV happening in a vulnerable population, in this case young Black men in the South,” says Dr. Christopher Pilcher, a co-author of the report and an assistant professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school. “We think this is a clear indication that more attention should be focused on HIV prevention and education.”

Researchers made the discovery after checking the results of a new HIV test that county health departments and private clinics started to give this past November. The new tests can detect HIV within two weeks of infection instead of about three months with traditional tests.

Over three months of the new test found that five people in the Triangle were infected with HIV. Two of them were Black male college students. The study’s authors declined to identify the school these students attend.

Researchers then looked at confirmed HIV cases in Durham, Orange and Wake counties from January 2001 to February 2003. They found that 146 men and 88 women contracted HIV during this period. Among the men, 25 were students at public, private or community colleges, and 88 percent of those were Black men who had sex with other men.

Researchers then looked at data from Guilford, Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Pitt counties, home of other large urban areas and places where some HIV patients said they had sex. They found another 28 HIV cases among college students during that span of almost two years. A disproportionate number of infected students go to some of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.

“We’re really, really concerned because it’s potentially just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Peter Leone, an associate professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school and medical director of the HIV prevention branch of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

— Associated Press

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