HIV/AIDS awareness on campus: University recognizes World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is recognized every Dec. 1. Established in 1988, it was the first official health day created and is an opportunity for people worldwide to come together and support those fighting HIV/AIDS and take a moment to remember those lost to the diseases.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 34 million people worldwide battling AIDS, with more than 1.1 million of these people living in the United States. Over 25 million people since 1981 have died due to complications from AIDS. In New York alone, as of 2010, about 129,000 New Yorkers were living with HIV/AIDS, according to the New York State HIV/AID Annual Surveillance Report. About 21 percent of these individuals reside outside of the five boroughs, but the highest rate of HIV and AIDS infections occur in Manhattan.

Since 1988 and the founding of World AIDS Day, developments have been made in HIV treatment, with new laws to accommodate people living with HIV and innovative ways to be tested for the virus. However, many people are still unaware of how to protect themselves from HIV, and many more are unaware that they carry the virus.

On Dec. 3rd, the university’s LGBTQA and Social Justice Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs sponsored an event to recognize World AIDS Day by inviting Kenyon Farrow to speak at the university. Farrow has worked as a writer and community organizer on issues relating to the HIV/AIDS crisis in prisons, race and homophobia. He discussed the history of HIV/AIDS and the need for all around support in providing access to life saving medical treatments.

Kelly Herbert, assistant director of the LGBTQA and Social Justice Center, said, “It is still an issue around the world, and many people do not have access to proper care and information about AIDS. World AIDS day is an opportunity to recognize the many individuals around the world who continue to die due to HIV and AIDS complications,” Herbert said, “as well as the many are currently living with HIV — some of whom do not have access to life saving medical treatments. Continued action and advocacy is crucial to battle the injustices in relation to access to medical care for all people.”

Dr. Denise B. Santiago of the Office of Multicultural Affairs feels that AIDS awareness is not what it could be. “You really don’t see a lot about it, and not a lot of programming [for HIV/AIDS education.],” Santiago said.

She feels that the AIDS pandemic is something that has long since been “swept under the rug” as a problem that was most prevalent in the 1980s. She mentions a Spanish saying that references “cover[ing] the sky with your hands,” which is a general attitude about the AIDS crisis today. “It’s there, it’s in our communities, but we don’t like addressing it,” Santiago said.

The LGBTQA Center also participates in the annual AIDS Walk to raise awareness and raise funds year round. The AIDS walk takes place in New York every year – this coming spring it will take place on May 19th. Registration and more information about the walk can be found on the AIDS walk website.

Students and faculty can donate to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the founding organization for the walk, at the LGBTQA Center at 41 Park Row on the 9th floor in room 903. All proceeds go to the GMHC.