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AIDS has become a significant threat on college campuses nation-wide, according to a groundbreaking study which found that one out of every 500 students is infected with the deadly virus.
The study, to be published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, led researchers to estimate that as many as 30,000 college students may now be AIDS carriers--50 percent more than they had originally expected.
"This was the very first study of this kind done. There was no idea what the...rate was in the college population," said Wallace E. Brewer, national coordinator of the study, which was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American College Health Association.
The only previous data on AIDS infection in college-age Americans came from a study of military recruits, which indicated that 0.14 percent of those tested were carriers of the virus, Brewer said. In the college study, 0.22 percent of the students tested positive for AIDS.
"We were expecting it to be similar to [the military study]," Brewer said. "There was some surprise that it was almost double."
Brewer said the study's results indicate that AIDS is already a serious problem on college campuses, and that it is likely to "get a lot worse." After preliminary results of the study were released publicly in May 1989, there was a "real rush of universities and colleges getting a hold of us about programs. It showed us that there is a problem on university campuses," he said.
The study's results are probably representative of the AIDS incidence rate at Harvard, said David S. Rosenthal '59, director of University Health Services (UHS).
"I think it's a very alarming number, and people should pay attention to it," said Alan Fein, executive director of the Harvard AIDS Institute. Fein called the study "another piece of data that indicates that we as a University should do a better job of AIDS education."
Rosenthal said that UHS will continue to step up AIDS education efforts across campus. "It's important to let people know this is still a problem," hesaid. "It shouldn't be swept under the rug."
Brewer said that about 80 schools wereoriginally contacted to look into the study.Researchers had hoped to recruit 20 of theseschools to participate, but only 19 agreed to takepart. But he said that in a second phase of thestudy, which is still under way, universities weremuch more willing to participate in the study.
The second stage will include 11 of theoriginal college and 24 additional schools, Brewersaid. Researchers hope to obtain more specificinformation about which campus demographic groupsare most susceptible to the AIDS virus, Brewersaid.
As of July 1, about midway through the secondphase study, .24 percent of 16,000 samples testedpositive for the virus. Brewer said that this isnot a significant statistical difference from thefirst stage results, which were based on 16,863blood samples.
Brewer said that he expects full second phaseresults to be in by the end of May
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