GW HOPE sheds light on STDs

GW hopes to take a stand against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases with outreach programs to educate students about the dangers of STDs.

GW HOPE – which stands for HIV and Other sexual health issues Peer Education – is a group of GW peer educators trained to conduct on-campus programs about HIV and STDs.

HOPE started more than 12 years ago as a joint program between student health services and the counseling center. It has reached out to students to stem the rise of sexually transmitted diseases.

About one in five HIV infections in the United States occurs in people under age 25, GW student health services officials said.

Susan Haney, a Student Health Services nurse and HOPE peer education group adviser, said other STDs occur in even higher numbers in college students.

Haney said the group hopes to present 90-minute STD awareness programs to students.

The peer educators were trained last Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Thurston Hall television lounge. Trainees included undergraduate and graduate students as well as staff members.

Some trainees had previous peer education experience in high school and others were new to the training.

Other outreach programs in which HOPE will be involved are World AIDS Day, the Oct. 4 AIDS Walk, a newsletter and a spring break survival kit.

“I think it’s important because it is a very prominent social issue that transcends race and sexual orientation,” said Jeff Marootian, a sophomore peer educator.

HIV peer education is crucial because the worldwide HIV epidemic is spreading at a rate of more than 6,000 new infections per day, according to the Student Health Services.

Peer-assisted interventions enhance HIV knowledge and curb risky behavior among students, according to the center.

Peer educator Christina Pederson said peer education at the college level is important.

“I volunteered at an AIDS hospice so I came into contact with a lot of AlDS patients and I think it is very important to bring information to college communities,” Pederson said.

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