The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently donated HIV testing equipment to The University of Mississippi following the release of statistics indicating blacks are much more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. New initiatives on campus are designed to counteract these statistics and raise awareness.
New data indicates that black men and women are more likely than whites and Hispanics to be diagnosed with HIV. Because of this information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention donated HIV testing equipment to Ole Miss that will give students access to free testing on campus.
According to the most recent data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, black women are 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white women and twice as likely than Hispanic women. Black men are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white men and three times more likely than Hispanic men.
In order to raise HIV awareness on campus and prevent the spread of HIV, health educator and graduate student T. Davis is working with University Health Services to start a new initiative that will allow students free access to HIV testing one day a week. Currently, tests cost $35.
“The CDC is interested in the numbers for college campuses, so they’re providing us with the rapid HIV and AIDS test,” Davis said.
Davis said that the price of advertising has proved to be an obstacle to raising awareness.
“It’s too expensive for me to say, ‘Every Thursday come and get an HIV test.’ I have to use word of mouth and flyers, so some people who need it don’t see it,” she said.
Director of University Health Services Barbara Collier said she assumes that The University of Mississippi follows the national average for HIV diagnoses. Of the approximately 20,000 students on all University of Mississippi campuses, only a small percentage are tested at Student Health Services on the Oxford campus.
“We like to think that we are in a little bubble here and that people on our campus do not have HIV, but there are people on our campus who have it, and they don’t know it and they continue to spread it,” Collier said. “If we detect someone with HIV, we immediately get them to see an infectious disease specialist.”
Along with the free testing, Davis is promoting HIV awareness through support of a documentary that will be shown in the Overby Center Auditorium March 26.
The documentary follows the story of a man diagnosed with AIDS in the Delta. There will be a Q-and-A session after the screening of the film with the producer and main character. Davis and other health advocates will be handing out condoms and HIV information at the event.