AIDS Day events seek awareness

Britt Johnsen

University students and faculty are marking World AIDS Day all week with a series of speakers and discussions to increase awareness of AIDS and HIV.

Health officials from 140 countries declared Dec. 1 World AIDS Day at a 1998 summit. The day is meant to promote awareness of HIV and AIDS and offer support to those affected by the epidemic.

Andy Birkey, Minnesota AIDS Project health educator and Queer Student Cultural Center co-chairman, led an informal discussion Monday in Coffman Union about HIV, AIDS and practicing safe sex.

Birkey said it is important that students have high self-esteem, because without it, they could suffer difficulties in talking about sexually transmitted infections and condom use.

He also said it is important to monitor alcohol and drug use, which affect decision-making.

HIV causes AIDS. The virus is transmitted through blood, vaginal fluid, semen and breast milk.

“World AIDS Day creates awareness on campus,” said Wynfred Russell, outreach and community relations coordinator for the African-American and African studies department. “We are all in this together.”

The department is one of four sponsors for a World AIDS Day event Wednesday. The event, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Coffman Union, will feature two speakers.

One will be a teenager talking about her experience living HIV-positive and the other will be a nurse who works with HIV and AIDS patients at the Hennepin County Medical Center. The evening will also include poetry, music and a video about children who have HIV or AIDS.

Russell said the department of African American and African studies values this event, but education and prevention need to continue. He said they encourage being tested and getting involved with building a community that is aware of and educated about the epidemic and is supportive in dealing with it.

In a 2001 Boynton Health

Service survey, no students said they were diagnosed with HIV. However, Katy Lust, Boynton health

assessment specialist, said that does not mean that there are no students on campus.