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Howard Student Calls for "Semester of Abstinence"

Testing for the HIV virus is part of the campaign to stem the epidemic.

A Howard graduate student and social worker has an idea to help students stay free of HIV/AIDS: Abstain from sexual activity for a semester.

"Howard, we have a problem and it can't be ignored," Carl Miller, a graduate student and social worker, said. "Student leaders and the entire Howard campus need to take up the responsibility of protecting future generations from the issues that we face today."

Miller, along with the School of Social Work, has initiated a campaign, "A Semester of Abstinence and Advocacy."

Miller has teamed up with Miss Howard, Assata Barton, and the Community of AIDS Activists Fighting for Equal Justice to carry out the plan. The group plans to show the ABC-TV special "Out of Control: AIDS in Black America" in various dormitories.

While dates and times have yet to be finalized, the group hopes to secure panelists and show the documentary in the third week of February.

On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Howard's School of Social Work screened the documentary.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for blacks between 25 and 44.

"If we don't take a stand as leaders then nothing will change," Miller said.

Miller added, "And more young people will become infected and die all because we ignored a problem that we can do something about."

According to Barton, the aim of the program is to analyze sexual behavior and how media dictate the way people behave in relationships. She also wants students to know their HIV/AIDS status, do research and learn more about the epidemic.

Miller said that when HIV/AIDS first made U.S. headlines, it was thought to be a white gay male disease. Today, that belief is no longer thought to be true. According to the CDC, in 2005, African Americans accounted for 22,030 of the estimated 44,198 AIDS cases diagnosed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, or 50 percent.

The CDC also reported that the rate of AIDS diagnoses for African American women was nearly 24 times that for white women. The rate of AIDS diagnoses for African American men was eight times the rate for white men.

"We have to respect and take care of ourselves because if we don't, who will?" Miller said.

"The more and more HIV/AIDS affects the black community, it seems like the less society seems to care," he said.

Taking the pledge of the "A Semester of Abstinence and Advocacy" campaign means that those who take part will get tested for HIV/AIDS, abstain from sexual activity and support the initiative to eradicate HIV/AIDS in the community.

"If we could get 60 students, that would be fine. But the more the merrier," Barton said.

Barton said students may be taken aback by the concept of abstinence.

However, she said she believes that once students read the contract and understand more about the epidemic in the black community, more will want to participate.

Eboni Farmer, a student at Howard University, writes for the Hilltop. To comment, contact [email protected]

Posted Feb. 5, 2007

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