U joins World AIDS Day

by Emma Carew

Northrop Mall and Coffman Union Plaza aren’t dressed up in red today to recognize this weekend’s Gophers vs. Badgers hockey game. The red ribbons that adorn the campus are in honor of World AIDS Day.

In recognition of the 18th annual World AIDS Day, student groups on campus along with Boynton Health Service are sponsoring events throughout the day to spread awareness of HIV and AIDS.

The Queer Student Cultural Center will distribute red ribbons with an informative note card attached, center co-chairperson Jen Mohnkern said.

Students can wear the ribbon to show their support of the day, Mohnkern said, and student groups will hang ribbons around Northrop Mall, Coffman Plaza and the center’s door.

“It’s the same recognizable red ribbon that started all of this,” Mohnkern said.

The 2005 theme of World AIDS Day is “Wise Up and Wear It,” in reference to the red ribbons.

Ribbons will also be available at the front desks of all residence halls, Klaeber Court, the QSCC and Boynton.

The Youth and AIDS Project will be in Coffman Union from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., offering free, confidential HIV testing, QSCC co-chairperson Mike Grewe said.

Boynton Health Service offers confidential HIV testing throughout the year, Mohnkern said, but this is the first year it has been brought to Coffman for World AIDS Day.

The subject of HIV/AIDS has been associated with the GLBT community since the early 1980s, when it was thought of as “a gay men’s disease,” Mohnkern said.

“We’re one of the communities that started promoting safe sex and started talking about how important it was,” Mohnkern said. “(HIV/AIDS) has always been connected to our community from there on out.”

In addition to events in the QSCC, the GLBTQ health advocates will be at tables in Coffman on the bookstore level from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The health advocates will have a paper quilt, which is a smaller version of the AIDS memorial quilt, GLBTQ health advocate Ryan Gonzalez said.

Students can honor friends and loved ones who have battled or are living with HIV/AIDS by adding a note card to the quilt, he said.

“We’re doing this to build awareness for the disease,” Gonzalez said. “To show that it’s still here and that it’s still growing. It’s still very much important to be safe and protect yourself.”

Gonzalez said he encourages students to take advantage of the free testing today.

“Know your own status, know where you stand,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to just drop in, get it free and have it performed by other GLBT folks.”

This evening, Arch, the QSCC’s coming out group, will host a Sex Chat, a free discussion on gay sex, Grewe said. Topics will include protection and prevention of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The bottom line is that World AIDS Day is to promote awareness about HIV/AIDS around the world, said Owen Marciano, assistant director of the GLBT Programs Office.

“I would hope that this day would serve as a reminder that HIV/AIDS is still a problem, and people still need to protect themselves against it, and learn more about the disease,” he said.