HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention Effort at UMass Amherst Rated One of the Best in the Country

AMHERST, Mass. - University Health Services (UHS) at the University of Massachusetts has one of the eight best campus HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts in the country, according to a recent report by the Health Education and Leadership Program of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

The NASPA report says the successful HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts at UMass, which are primarily directed by the health education and outreach division at UHS, share a number of factors common to all of the best programs from around the country. These include: strong and sustained support from top administrators; a program director who excels at building collaborative networks that reach students, staff, and faculty; programs that are compatible with the campus culture; and use of the peer theater group The Not Ready for Bedtime Players to communicate directly to student populations.

HIV/AIDS education is integrated into health services, academic departments, and housing services, and there is a component for campus athletes, the report says. In addition, the report says, UMass participates in the Five-College HIV/AIDS Committee that sponsors an annual World AIDS Day event. Other campus agencies such as the Stonewall Center and the Everywoman''s Center also include HIV and AIDS education in their training and referral services.

Pamela G. Gonyer, director of health education and outreach at UHS, welcomed the NASPA report''s conclusions. Gonyer says the UMass HIV/AIDS programs rely on a network of efforts that affect all areas of the campus. "Collaboration with a broad range of groups is necessary for success," Gonyer says. "Rather than focus on program-specific components, our success is strengthened by addressing the issues and concerns associated directly with HIV and AIDS. That''s why our efforts work."

Bernette A. Melby, director of health services, says the HIV/AIDS initiative has become a national model because all members of the campus community share in the ownership of the issue and demonstrate a commitment to take action. "AIDS is a disease that touches everybody; it''s not just other people who are at risk," Melby says. "People may feel that they are immune, but we know they aren''t." Melby says this complex but integrated approach to education, treatment, testing, and counseling, reaches every layer of the campus community.