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HIV infections on the rise at N.C. colleges

HIV infections on the rise at N.C. colleges

North Carolina researchers are alarmed by a recent HIV outbreak among college students in the state in which 53 male students--most of them African-American--have contracted the virus. For the first time in two decades of HIV research, the figures identify college campuses as high-transmission areas for HIV, according to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and state researchers. "This is the first indication that there may be a resurgence of HIV happening in a vulnerable population, in this case young black men in the South," said Christopher Pilcher, assistant professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school and coauthor of the report. Researchers made the discovery after evaluating the results of new HIV tests that detect the infection within about two weeks after it occurs, rather than about three months as with traditional tests. County health departments and private clinics began to administer the new test in November. Over three months the new test found that five people in the Research Triangle area, the name of the region that includes Duke University, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, were HIV-infected. The researchers then looked at confirmed HIV cases in Durham, Orange, and Wake counties from January 2001 to February 2003. They discovered 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% of those were African-American men who had sex with other men. "We're really, really concerned because it's potentially just the tip of the iceberg," said Peter Leone, associate professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and medical director of the HIV prevention branch of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

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