The KU Allies put together an event to spread the message of World AIDS Day to KU students on Monday, Dec. 3 in the McFarland Student Union Building. Running from noon to 5 p.m., students had the opportunity to learn about HIV and AIDS issues.
Since 1988, people throughout the world have been joining together for World AIDS Day every year on December 1. World AIDS Day is a time to support people living with HIV and to remember those who have died.
According to AIDS.gov, “More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.” AIDS is an issue that negatively affects the lives of so many people, making it crucial to promote awareness.
Here at KU, the Allies worked together to transform the multipurpose room into an AIDS learning center. During the event, students watched the movie Rent, played carnival games, bingo and Jeopardy to learn important AIDS facts. Ribbons, pins, bracelets and condoms were also available to students when they walked around to the different booths.
KU student Kristen Miller was running the event and cleared up some common misconceptions about the disease.
“It’s not like the common cold,” said Miller. She continued to explain that many people fear contracting the disease through saliva, but it is nearly impossible.
Allies member Abigail Moss explained the need for proper preventative measures during sex for everyone. “You can get if from doing something one time,” said Moss.
According to AIDS.gov, “Every 9.5 minutes someone in the US is infected with HIV.” Not all these people contract the disease from drug usage or same sex relations. AIDS can cross anyone’s path at any point.
“You have to be so careful,” Moss commented. Most commonly transferred through sexual activities, AIDS can also be contracted through blood transfusions or even birth.
As the view of AIDS has developed over the years from a punishment for promiscuity to now an epidemic of the world, research to fight the disease has made progress. Although still no cure, a lot of preventative measures are being taken.
During blood drives, blood gets tested and thrown away if it is infected. If a pregnant mother has AIDS, it doesn’t necessarily mean the child will be born with the disease; there are now preventative measures mothers can take to protect their children.
“Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition,” according to AIDS.gov. Medical advances like antiretroviral therapy (ART) have paved the way for better lifestyles for the affected, but it is not a cure.
With medicine, the life of an AIDS patient is better, but they still need to be cautious.
“It’s not the AIDS that kills you usually. It’s because the AIDS has broken down your immune system so much that you can’t fight off the flu, the cold, things like that,” Miller explained.
Once AIDS is contracted, the immune system is immediately weakened and more susceptible to progression of other illnesses.
Andrea Barton, a member of the KU Allies and a helper at the World AIDS Day event, emphasizes the importance of finding out sooner than later.
“Get yourself tested every three to six months, [and with] every new partner,” said Barton. She continued to explain that the sooner a person finds out, the more people they can save from the disease, and maybe even save themselves by taking extra cautions around airborne viruses.
“One in five living with HIV are unaware of their infection,” according to AIDS.gov. Here at KU, STD testing is available on campus free for any student. The KU Health Center offers students a confidential way to find out if they have contracted any sexually transmitted disease in a pain-free method, the mouth swab test.
The University also offers many resources to students for prevention and support. Free condoms are available at the Health and Wellness Center in Beck Hall, the Women’s Center in Old Main and the GLBTQ Resource Center located in Old Main.
The Allies held the World AIDS Day event in an effort to project the truth about AIDS to the student body.
“It’s no longer a GLBTQ disease, not a gay disease, and we want to get that across to students of KU,” Barton commented.
World AIDS Day reminds the public that the HIV virus is still a vital cause that needs funds, awareness and education. Students at KU can reach out to the Allies of KU, a support group for anyone. “No matter who you are they’ll accept you,” Moss commented.
The Allies urge friends to support others they know who have contracted the disease and to spread awareness.
By Haley Bianco