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Philander Smith brings Ivy League 'Sex Week' to HBCU.

Dr. Walter Kimbrough knew that there was nothing normal about the recent statistics erupting in the headlines about Black sexual activity. In fact, he says, the numbers were "mind boggling," especially knowing that African-Americans are the most religious group in the U.S., according to a 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Kimbrough, president of the historically Black Philander Smith College, called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ha disbelief when he learned that Black teens comprise 68 percent of new AIDS cases and are more likely to contract other sexually transmitted diseases compared to their White or Hispanic counterparts.

Faced with these numbers, Kimbrough--a preacher's son--also wrestled with what he says is "dearly a disconnect between Black religious belief and behavior" among college students as well as in the broader community. He responded by launching Sex Week on February 7, which was also National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

"We had to do something," Kimbrough says.

He says he borrowed the name "Sex Week" from Yale University, which launched a student-run event in 2002 as a way to promote sexual discussion on the Ivy League campus. Philander Smith's version of Sex Week featured a campuswide sexual education forum and brought students together with medical, religious, health and relationship experts--including former Secretary General and Philander Smith board member Dr. Jocelyn Elders--for frank dialogue on topics including STDs, AIDS, Christian dating, sexual harassment and domestic abuse. On-site testing was available for HIV, herpes and other STDs.

Kimbrough says he knew Philander Smith was taking on a big issue that many in the often-conservative Black higher education community won't touch.

Writing in his blog before the start of Sex Week, Kimbrough said: "For me, the controversy is allowing these dreadful statistics to continue to spiral out of control and not attempt to change behavior. Hopefully, the conversations this week will help begin to align beliefs with behavior."

Philip A. Hilton, of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, says his organization began partnering in 2009 with Bennett College and a handful of other Black institutions to promote HIV prevention and train campus leaders. "While the institutions that we partner with have not held an event called Sex Week, we see a need for one that is age-appropriate, and science and health-based," says Hilton.

"We've got a problem on our hands," he continues. "By the time kids get to college, it's too late."

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Title Annotation:Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Philander Smith College, Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Author:Hawkins, B. Denise
Publication:Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 3, 2011
Words:405
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