Health officials in North Carolina report that an HIV screening program designed for use on the campuses of several predominantly African-American colleges in the state uncovered an HIV outbreak among the college students, AIDS Alert reports. The outbreak was centered on 11 predominantly black colleges and one Native American college. The majority of newly diagnosed HIV infections were among black men who have sex with men, said Lisa Fitzpatrick, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that more than 17% of the state's newly diagnosed HIV infections among men in 2002 were in college students at the 12 colleges. Eighty-eight percent of the men diagnosed on the campuses were African-American; the same percentage were gay or bisexual. Interviews with those newly diagnosed directly linked sexual activity between students at seven of the colleges.
The infections were discovered through a pilot program in the state that not only screens blood for HIV antibodies but also levels of HIV RNA, which can give researchers an idea of when a person was infected with the virus. The program is designed to identify people who have recently been infected with HIV, known as acute infection.
The state and the colleges where the infections were reported are collaborating on a project to provide peer education training for HIV antibody testing and counseling as a way to identify more students infected with HIV and to encourage those at risk for infection to practice safer sex. Other testing and prevention measures also will be launched on the campuses to slow the spread of the virus, particularly among sexually active men who have sex with men, CDC officials said.