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The Perception of HIV Among College Students

Today’s college students might be a generation removed for the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and with young people being the most at-risk for HIV infection, many people have concerns regarding just how much health education is provided this group on campus. To either confirm or squash these concerns, I asked these questions to college students at the University of North Texas to find out.


As a college student, what is your perception of HIV?


“I don’t think that people think it can happen to them, until it happens to them. It’s really not some far-fetched thing.” –Hannah W., Junior

“It’s just kind of a looming thing. We definitely know about it but we don’t talk about it, and I guess that’s pretty ignorant when you think about it.” –Josh D., Senior

“I’m pretty aware of it, I’d say more than most other college students. I know people who have been affected, and I see how a little education and action could have prevented them from going through a lot of trouble.” –Liz F., Sophomore


Do you think college students are aware of preventative measures to fight against HIV and STIs?


“Yes, but when they get in the heat of the moment I think we tend to not care, which is hazardous. Personally, that’s what happens to me. It might take a scare for some of us to be a little better about using some of them.” –Josh F., Freshman

“I think we’d have to define what preventative measures we’re talking about. There’s the simple stuff, like condoms, that everybody knows about. But as a member of the gay community, I really doubt a lot of us know about things like PrEP, or any of the scientific advancements we’ve made when it comes to prevention.” –Justin S., Junior


How is HIV transmitted?


“Body fluids, right? I know it can’t be transmitted through kissing though. You’re making this sound like a trick question! (laughs)” –Paige B., Freshman

“Body fluids, like blood or semen. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way. Basically, don’t have unprotected sex!” – Brian L., Senior


Do you think that preventative/post-exposure measures are accessible on campus?


“I always see signs about testing and such on campus, but I’ve never actually been. It’s present though, I’ve just never taken advantage of it.” –Austin A., Sophomore

“I don’t know for sure, but I know that we have a health and wellness center that probably is a big resource or at least has programs for students. I don’t think they’re utilized very much.” –Hannah W., Junior

“We actually have this huge condom carnival every year that some organization on campus puts on. My roommates told me all about it and came home with a ton of condoms (laughs). That’s the only resource I’ve heard of, but it’s probably because of the shock factor. I mean, it’s a condom carnival (laughs)” –Devonte H., Junior


            It seems that the overwhelming response is that of a general knowledge of HIV/AIDS, but there is a lack of proactivity when it comes to utilizing preventative measures and resources on the college campus. Unfortunately, living ignorantly, and blissfully, has become somewhat of the norm. College students could benefit from being engaged more regularly regarding the topic, because constant conversation leads to consistent action. The reality of the situation is that heath culture and threats against health are not being talked about, so nothing is being done. That’s pretty eye-opening, considering just how easy it could be to start having these conversations while so many twenty-somethings are populated together as college students. We’re not so far off from where we should be, but we’re definitely not there yet.    


Jarrett Way is a 20-year-old senior at the University of North Texas pursuing a degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations. To hear more from Jarrett, follow him on twitter.