Friday, August 25, 2023

Human Rights Campaign HBCU Program Announces New Cohort of PrEP Ambassadors

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF), the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) program is proud to announce its new PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) Ambassador cohort. This year, 12 students will serve as PrEP Peer Educators to eliminate HIV & AIDS-related stigma on HBCU campuses through public education regarding PrEP, HIV testing and treatment. Since its inception, this program has helped educate some of the most vulnerable communities, including college students, about preventative care and the continuing realities of the HIV epidemic.


The 12-person cohort consists of students from HBCUs across the country, including: Gevon Finley, Dillard University; Maya Wilson, North Carolina A&T State University; Kalya Dudley, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Ryan Lastie Jr., Dillard University; Shania Stowe, Winston-Salem State University; Amarachi Okafor, Stillman College; Cheyanne Harris, Spelman College; Korinne Seveur, Spelman College; Maya Hawkins, Winston-Salem State University; Jamal Carr, Bowie State University; Tyronae Smith, Dillard University; and Kynna Burney, North Carolina A&T State University.


“We are thrilled to welcome this dynamic cohort of HBCU students and take great pride in the work they’re doing to continue spreading the message of HIV awareness on the respective campuses,” said HBCU Director, Leslie Hall. “As a Black gay man and HBCU alumni, I’m aware of the hurdles college aged youth face when it comes to knowing their status and taking the appropriate measures to maintain their optimal health. The creation of this ambassadorship program serves as an outlet for those who may be unfamiliar with the nuances surrounding HIV, but want to take measures to ensure their community is educated on this impactful topic.”


Currently, about 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States, but it is estimated that roughly 13% of this group are unaware of their status. HIV disproportionately impacts Black individuals (42.1% of all new diagnoses in 2019 were among Black people), followed by Hispanic people (21.7% of new diagnoses).  and individuals aged 13-24 make up 1 out of every 5 new cases of HIV, but 44% of that demographic are unaware of their status—with only 24% of college students having been tested for HIV. Despite these alarming statistics, over half of HBCUs have no formal HIV prevention policies, fueling this program’s mission of supporting those who are all too often left vulnerable to the HIV epidemic. Through this ambassadorship cohort, the HBCU program will work to ensure that PrEP is offered on or near HBCU campuses to further protect the communities most at risk.