North Carolina health officials are using a $1.4 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to train clubgoers and campus leaders as peer educators to urge young gay and bisexual African-American men to avoid unprotected sex, the Raleigh News and Observer reports. The grant was issued after reports surfaced during the past two years that dozens of college-age black men in the state and surrounding areas were becoming infected with HIV through unprotected sex with other men. African-Americans in North Carolina also have an HIV prevalence rate nine times higher than that of white state residents.
State officials have identified at least seven bars and clubs in the area near the state's Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest universities that are frequented by young black gay and bisexual men and hope to train at least 15% of the clubgoers to serve as peer educators. The program also is targeting campus leaders at black colleges throughout the state to serve as HIV prevention educators. Participants in the program will receive gift cards and discounted entry to area bars for their HIV prevention efforts.
"People have heard these messages about preventing infection and getting tested from public health workers for 20 years now, but they are still taking chances and engaging in risky behavior," Phyllis Gray, project manager of the minority initiative at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch, told the News and Observer. "The hope is that over time these people will change the atmosphere, the behavior, what's considered the norm when people have sex."