HRC Foundation released a new comprehensive guide for college administrators, staff and students outlining many of the critical steps higher educational institutions can take to improve student health and wellbeing.
The release of the new guide coincides with National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day, which seeks to raise awareness of the disproportionate and unique needs of young people in the effort to combat the spread of HIV. Despite declining HIV infection rates in the United States, youth ages 14 to 24 continue to be at a high risk of acquiring HIV, with 80 percent of new diagnoses from this age group occurring in people between the ages of 20 and 24. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a staggering 51 percent of young people living with HIV do not know their status, in large part due to inadequate HIV educational resources for young people.
“The path toward ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic goes right through America’s colleges and universities,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Our colleges and universities are not just tasked with educating our nation’s students, but also protecting the health and wellbeing of their student body and campus community. By taking the steps necessary to provide equitable treatment, expand access to care and offer educational resources on HIV, students and administrators alike can help bring our world one step closer to an AIDS-free generation.”
As a group, college students experience heightened risk factors that can lead to contracting HIV, including engaging in high-risk sexual behavior and experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Nevertheless, according to the CDC, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent.
“Ending the HIV epidemic is a battle HRC is committed to fighting on all fronts — through law, policy, and public education,” said Ashland Johnson, HRC’s Director of Public Education and Research. “Engaging campus administrators is critical to our efforts. This guide not only increases their awareness about key risk factors for campus youth, it also empowers them with information about ways they can immediately intervene and take action.”
Among the recommendations for colleges and universities outlined in the guide to reverse these trends are the adoption of inclusive nondiscrimination protections and sexual health programs, practices and policies, as well as partnering and supporting both community and student-led initiatives to promote HIV awareness. With the LGBTQ community disproportionately impacted by HIV, the guide also calls for leveraging the growing role of LGBTQ resource centers and clubs on campus for programming and education.