World AIDS Day promotes awareness around campus

Angela L. Gorter and Angela L. Gorter

It is a day that recognizes the nearly 38 million individuals who have contracted HIV/AIDS in the last 24 years of its existence. Memorializing those who have died and supporting those who are living with the disease, World AIDS Day has promoted international awareness of HIV/AIDS for the past 17 years.

In commemoration of this day, the Student Union will become part of another nation-wide event, ‘#34;A Day without Art.’#34; This program was created in 1989 in response to the AIDS crisis, said Kim Jacobs, associate director for programs and services for the Union. Specifically, ‘#34;it is to make the public aware that AIDS could touch everyone,’#34; Jacobs said.

Staff members in the Union will cover every piece of art throughout the building with white cloth and paper and attach an AIDS ribbon to them. Signs will also be posted around the pieces to help explain the event and to give further information about the cause.

The Wellness Connection will also be contributing their time today to educating students on prevention. Members of Bacchus Gamma, a peer education network, will host a table in the Union Lobby where they will be handing out packets filled with HIV/AIDS testing information, red AIDS awareness ribbons and condoms. In addition, they will be selling red ribbon suckers in efforts to raise funds for AIDS research, along with reading aloud names of individuals who have died.

‘#34;It [AIDS] needs to raise awareness, it is one of the leading killers for people our age. A lot of people are affected by this disease, not only those that are infected,’#34; Bacchus Gamma advisor Allison Langenhop said.

Every hour, nearly 250 people between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV, according to a CNN Special Report, ‘#34;RU+: A Look at HIV/AIDS Today.’#34; And of the 40,000 new infections of the disease every year in the U.S., more than half are people under the age of 25.

An additional vehicle used to educate and raise awareness of the disease is the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Last year, a 12×12 panel of the Quilt was shown in the Union during World AIDS Day. Today, other universities in Ohio will have a chance to represent the over 83,000 names on the Quilt.

In particular, Lourdes College in Sylvania.

Beginning yesterday and ending tomorrow, the college will host a section of the panel never in circulation before.

‘#34;The piece has been put together by inmates in a prison in New York in memory of those who lost their lives [to AIDS] in that community,’#34; said Joyce Litten, chairperson for the social work department at Lourdes College.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt began in 1988 by Cleve Jones, a San Francisco gay rights activist. Jones had wanted to give a memorial to those who have died of the disease, and to help people understand the impact it has on society, according to

The Quilt currently stretches 51.3 miles if laid end to end, and weighs over 54 tons. Additionally, it represents only 17.5 percent of those who have died of HIV/AIDS, said Julie Rhoads, executive director of the NAMES Project Foundation that sponsors the Quilt.

‘#34;It’#39;s important first because the Quilt is a reflection of life in the age of AIDS. It is a visceral reminder of all that we lost, that we love and what we need to do to fight this disease,’#34; she said.

Sections of the Quilt’#39;s panels travel throughout the U.S. 365 days a year with close to 1,000-1,500 individual displays each year, Rhoads said.

‘#34;Now more than ever as people’#39;s interest and understanding wanes, having the Quilt out at multiple times during the year is vitally important – reminding us that testing is important,’#34; she said, ‘#34;the Quilt helps put message out there.’#34;

Within the last two decades, treatment for the disease has left many who have been infected with less fear of death and a greater sense that they will live longer lives. However, as HIV/AIDS crosses the line from the homosexual to heterosexual communities, the rate of infection is still on the rise. Today, women have the highest rate of infection among all demographics in the U.S., Rhoads said.

As a result of the changing demographics and the increased risk for a larger number of individuals, education and awareness are that much more important.

‘#34;For many who have grown up with HIV/AIDS as a part of the culture, you become jaded with the issue; indeed there is so much need for continued attention,’#34; Litten said, ‘#34;More than to acknowledge the loss, but a need for continued attention and energy to promote a cure and continue services for those who have the disease.’#34;