Institute initiates AIDS awareness

The Black AIDS Institute held its first Historically Black College and University Student Mobilization Initiative last weekend in Atlanta.

The initiative is a nationwide effort to make black college campuses aware of the AIDS epidemic in America. Guests included Hydeia Broadbent, 20, who has been a face of AID S since she was young, and has appeared on such television shows as Oprah. Broadbent’s birth mother was a intravenous drug user and gave her the disease; thus, she has had it all of her life.

Jonathan Perry, a Johnson C. Smith University student, contracted the AIDS virus in June 2000. He found out he had the disease in January 2001. Perry who is a homosexual, said he became infected when the condom that he was using broke.

According to, HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is what causes AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV, then, attacks the immune system, which defends the body from the disease.

HIV and AIDS are not synonymous. It can take years before a person’s immune system becomes so damaged that different bacteria and infections begin to take over. This is when a person officially has the AIDS virus.

One of the most alarming things for attendees were that both Broadbent and Perry still have sex with partners, even though they say their partners are told they are HIV positive.

“My sex life is very good,” Perry said.

Several speakers mentioned the newly publicized controversy, men on the down low. These men sleep with both men and women, but keep their homosexuality a secret.

The point was raised at the conference by a student attendee that there would not be a need to be as secretive in the gay community, if being gay was culturally accepted.

Craig Washington, a speaker at the conference and a homosexual, said this newly publicized group of men “predates the J.L. King book,” which is titled “On the Down Low: A Journey into Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men who Sleep with Men.”

While at the conference, L.I.F.E. Aids, a new program to spotlight HIV and AIDS on different college campuses, was formed. Nine representatives from the different colleges represented were chosen to chair the newly structured organization. The mission statement was also formed as a way to guide the L.I.F.E. Aids’ new members. Its mission is: “L.I.F.E. Aids strives to educate black college students on the causes and effects of HIV/AIDS while creating a comfortable environment for dialogue about our sex and sexuality in order to eradicate the epidemic and restore hope in our community.”

The “epidemic” in which the mission statement alludes to is one that is killing blacks around the globe in record numbers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated number of diagnoses of HIV/AIDS by race in 2002 was 54 percent black, 32 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic and one percent other.

The study also shows that although blacks make up 12.3 percent of America’s population, the race accounts for 39 percent of the 886,000 estimated AIDS cases since the beginning of the epidemic.

According to another study done by the CDC, in 1985, there were less than 2,500 people living with AIDS in the United States. By 2002, there were almost 400,000.

Contact Rachael Shackelford at