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AIDS Remains Major Concern On College Campuses

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fight against AIDS. In that time, researchers have developed new drugs to treat AIDS and patients are living longer, but the number of HIV cases is still a major concern, especially among young adults.

College is a time for learning, growing, and gaining independence, but an alarming number of students are getting something else from their college years -- HIV. Of all the new HIV cases in the United States, half of them are young adults under age 25.

"The statistics estimate that anywhere between one in 250 and one in 500 students are infected," said Scott Butler, coordinator of Human Sexuality Programs at UNC.

To put that in perspective, more than 24,000 students are enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill. If one in 250 were infected, that would be 96 cases of HIV on campus.

As part of World AIDS Week, Butler is trying to get the message out to college students. This week, students are passing out information on HIV infection and prevention. There is also confidential HIV testing and counseling.

"Basically what we're trying to do is promote healthy behavior, getting out information, statistics, kind of providing for a healthy campus overall," Butler said.

While those involved in the program know they will not reach everyone with their message, they believe their presence alone will make a difference.

"I think just education is the key -- education, understanding, willingness to learn and willingness to help other people," Butler said.

Along with unprotected sex and drug use, campus health officials consider drinking an at-risk behavior. Experts say many of the young adults who are infected do not know it. It is estimated that about 250,000 young men and women are unaware that they are HIV positive.