Monday, January 11, 2016

Confronting the AIDS epidemic at UNCG

The AIDS epidemic in the United States officially began in June 1981, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported several unusual medical cases in five homosexual men from Los Angeles. Initially termed gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) for its prevalence to appear in homosexuals, the disease was reclassified in August 1982 as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The initial uncertainty within the medical community about the pathology of the disease along with its high mortality rate, created uneasiness and apprehension across the United States. The lack of an urgent response by the U.S. Government towards the crisis exacerbated the spread of the infection and stigma associated with the disease. By the end of 1983, the number of AIDS diagnoses in the country had risen to 3,364 with 1,292 having died as a result.

While the number of AIDS cases continued to rise, colleges and universities were unprepared for how to address the disease on their campuses. In 1985, the American Council on Education and the American College Health Association released reports and brochures that outlined the best known information on the disease, as well as guidelines for how institutions should respond.

Reacting to the national initiative to reduce the spread of AIDS through dissemination of information, the University of North Carolina’s General Administration announced in November of 1985 that they intend to launch a campus-based educational program concerning AIDS. The goal was to provide useful information on the subject to members of each campus in an effort to limit the spread of AIDS and dispel ignorance and misinformation that could lead to inappropriate responses to the disease. Several suggested actions included the General Administration producing an informational handout, encouraging the creation of a campus committee to coordinate AIDS related issues, and arranging to have medical and legal experts provide assistance in addressing the problem. Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring effective communication about the disease within each campus rested with the administration of each university.
UNCG's Student Health Services Policy on AIDS

Following the announcement, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) began outlining policies and approaches for how to best address the potential for AIDS on campus. In November of 1985, UNCG’s Student Health Services drafted a preliminary policy for dealing with AIDS patients. This included procedures such as “advise the patient of possible social problems, particularly in residence halls, if it is known or rumored that he/she has AIDS” and “suggest that if he/she elects to remain in school that it might be in their best interest to consider residing off campus” due to the social consequences. The policy also clearly stated that AIDS victims (as they were described) would not be barred from classes, from using university facilities, or from public gatherings.

In February of 1986, an Infectious Disease Task Force was created by UNCG with the charge of designing educational programming on AIDS and creating an appropriate administrative response with policies towards the disease. This proactive educational approach towards AIDS would continue throughout the year. In April of 1986, a questionnaire was given to students to ascertain their level of concern and their attitude about AIDS.  Schools and department also were encouraged to incorporate information about AIDS into their courses and programming in an effort to increase awareness.

Today, the need to inform students, faculty, and staff about AIDS on campus has lessened as knowledge about the disease has become more widespread over the last thirty years. However, UNCG still maintains information about AIDS on its website and periodically offers free, confidential HIV testing for students.

No comments:

Post a Comment