Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is reeling from the news that a woman arrested on prostitution charges Thursday for allegedly soliciting students in its dorms had told police officers that she is HIV-positive.
According to police records, the woman told university police that she had sex with 10 male students but "could not relate if all 10 sexual acts had condoms involved." She told authorities she was HIV-positive and was found to be in possession of several bottles of prescription pills commonly used by people with HIV .
Police officials reported that the woman had been walking around the sixth floor of a residence hall offering to perform sexual acts for cash, according to an affidavit. Campus authorities had originally responded to a complaint about 2 p.m. Thursday that a woman, believed to be the accused, had been running nude through the building. Sakinah K. Floyd, 34, was charged with prostitution, criminal solicitation, open lewdness, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, according to the police report.
The woman, who is not a student, visited two separate dormitories during a 24-hour span last week, according to a university statement.
A university spokeswoman did not address repeated requests Monday to make a campus administrator available to talk about dorm security and HIV prevention issues at Cheyney, a historically black university in suburban Philadelphia. In an initial written statement, the university responded by “urging anyone who has had any sexual contact with the woman to report to a hospital emergency room immediately to receive HIV/AIDS testing and to start prophylactic medication” to prevent transmission. The university offered counseling and transportation to hospitals, according to the statement.
In a second statement, released late Monday afternoon, Cheyney administrators outlined efforts to expand HIV education services and step up existing efforts for disseminating information and bringing groups onto campus for HIV testing. The university plans to hold a question and answer session with a local HIV/AIDS prevention group and a student assembly to discuss the issue this week, and a theatrical performance by an AIDS activist is also on the horizon.
On the dorm security front, Cheyney's 2006 Safety & Security Report, available online, indicates that non-residents must obtain passes to enter residence halls, and that visits are restricted to the hours of 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays for freshmen, and from 3 p.m. through midnight on weekdays for upperclassmen. Visitation is limited from 3 to 12 and 1 a.m., respectively, for freshmen and upperclassmen on weekend evenings.
Davis Smith, co-chair of the American College Health Association's committee on sexually transmitted infections and the medical director of Wesleyan College's Davison House Health Center, expressed his concern for the well-being of Cheyney students Monday and said that this type of incident could happen at any college campus.
“It is always striking how people accommodate over time to prevention messages, although that’s human nature, so for example, somebody who tends to drive too fast who gets into an accident typically will drive more cautiously for some period of time, but then that experience will fade, and probably they’ll revert to their older driving patterns," Smith said.
"This is similar with HIV. People should not be having sex with professional sex workers because that’s high risk -- I think that’s well within the public consciousness. People should be wearing condoms during sex, for lots of reasons, not least of them HIV transmission. It’s a reminder to us that people continue to make unfortunate decisions in terms of missed opportunities for protecting themselves from infections, and you keep trying to put the messages out but you recognize that people aren’t always going to make the best decision at the time that you’d like them to," Smith said.
“You keep trying to improve your message, you keep finding ways to effect change, you keep at it, but those are the discouraging days.”