Activists educate on dangerous disease

Sisters United joined forces with the Women’s Resource Center, VIVA, SUBA and Rafiki Wa Afrika to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in women of color on Monday in the Hamilton-Williams Atrium.
Students read poems and cited facts about the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the program.
Sophomore Kimberley Trought, Caribbean representative of Rafiki Wa Afrika, emceed the event, stating facts and statistics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic between performances.
“Today is HIV and AIDS Awareness Day,” Trought said. “Together we must raise awareness to fight the misconceptions of the disease and strive to educate those around us.”
Sophomore Nola Johnson, president of Sisters United, organized the event to educate students on campus about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
“Young people think that they’re invincible,” Johnson said. “They think the disease can’t touch them. But it can, and it does.”
Sophomore Kate Johnson, representing the Women’s Resource Center, said that one in 500 college students have HIV. She also said that condoms greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
“The Women’s Resource Center has plenty of free condoms,” Johnson said. “Condoms alone can help control the spread of HIV on college campuses.”
Chaplain Jon Powers said HIV/AIDS is a mystery of the scientific and social world.
According to Powers, five people die of AIDS every minute. Additionally, nine new infections of HIV occur every minute. These statistics are doubled when it comes to people in the black community, Powers said.
“This disease particularly hits people of color,” Powers said. “There are layers and layers of need and we are tipping the iceberg of this need today.”
Trought said she hoped to dispel some of the misconceptions of HIV/AIDS.
“Homosexuality is not the only way HIV gets spread,” Trought said. “It’s a disease that can affect anyone in any relationship. (HIV is) a disease that has no face.”
Powers said awareness events are a good first step in combating a social issue.
He said some of the hardest things to come together and discuss, such as HIV/AIDS, are the most important.
“Awareness of HIV is the beginning, but it’s not enough,” Powers said. “HIV is rampant and it is not going away. We need more than condoms and HIV awareness. It is important to provide support and care for those affected by the disease.
“We need funding for research, medical care clinics,hopsice care and in orphanages for childen who have lost parents to AIDS.”
Powers said the stigma of HIV/AIDS is not the same as it was when he first dealt with instances of HIV on campus in the 80s.
“Because of awareness, we’ve broken down some of the stigmas about HIV,” Powers said. “Many of us know someone who has HIV or AIDS or who has died from the disease.”
According to Johnson, the Delaware General Health District is administering free, oral HIV tests at the Student Health Center next Monday from 1-3:30 p.m.
Students can call the Health Center to make an anonymous appointment at 740-368-3160.

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