Student groups aim to raise awareness on AIDS Day

by Amber Schadewald

The number of young adults living with AIDS in the United States increased by 42 percent between 2000 and 2004, putting young people at a persistent risk for HIV infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

where to go

Lunch and learn
WHAT: Presented by the Disabled Student Cultural Center along with the Queer Student Cultural Center. This is a free event with food.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today
WHERE: 203 Coffman Union

World Aids Day Celebration
WHAT: The Black Student Union presents speaker, Steve Miles, spoken word performance and film “Journey of Hope” showing
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. today
WHERE: St. Paul Student Center Ballroom
COST: Free; change drive donations are appreciated

Benefit Concert
WHEN: 7 p.m. to midnight today
WHERE: Auxiliary Club, 34 13th Ave. N.E.
COST: $8 before show, $10 at the door; 1 free raffle ticket included

HIV testing
WHAT: The Queer Student Cultural Center along with the Youth and Aids Project are giving free HIV tests.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today
WHERE: 325 Coffman Union

But many students don’t just want to hear statistics. So, today, as part of World AIDS Day, many student groups around campus are using art, music, lectures and discussions to educate their peers about this deadly disease.

With all of the resources available to young people today to prevent contracting the virus, Ruth Adu-Gyamfi, an individualized major junior, said she’s surprised to hear that her generation is seeing the highest increases in number of infections.

Adu-Gyamfi is a member of the Black Student Union, which is hosting the World AIDS Day Celebration – an event featuring a lecture by University bioethics professor Steven Miles, along with spoken-word artists, dancers and a film from Camp Heartland, a local organization for children living with HIV/AIDS.

The student union wanted to present the issues in a way that students would find both informative and entertaining Adu-Gyamfi said, since listening to a lecture only goes so far.

Julia Sewell, a DePaul University student who studies psychology and theater, wrote a spoken-word narrative for the event, which tells the story of a young girl who contracts the disease from her boyfriend.

“Caught up in the moment, so blind that you couldn’t see – that dude forgot to tell you, that he had HIV,” is a line repeated throughout the narrative.

The piece incorporates both facts and experiences she saw first hand while working with youth, she said.

Sewell wanted to make her piece as realistic and relatable as possible for her audience, and art is the most effective way to share the message, she said.

“Honestly, I tend to zone out when I hear speakers,” she said. “As young people, we like to see a variety of things.”

Tonight, the MN AIDS Coalition, a collaboration of eight health care-related graduate student groups, is hosting the World AIDS Day Benefit Concert, a night of local music and art to be held in Northeast Minneapolis. The proceeds will be donated to the Aliveness Project, a Minneapolis organization that helps people infected with HIV/AIDS.

James McCabe, second-year medical student, helped plan the concert, which he said he hopes will give people a sense that every individual has the power to make a difference.

“There’s no better way to understand something than through having a good time,” he said.

The concert is part of a series of events put on by the MN AIDS Coalition throughout this week at the University Medical School, including lunch discussions, movies, speakers, an activities fair and a bake sale.

McCabe said he hopes the week’s events have helped people think about the issues at hand and how the AIDS epidemic will continue to affect our generation in years to come.

Tim Connolly, journalism and mass communication junior, said today’s younger generation assumes treatments available today mean they don’t need to worry about AIDS anymore – and that’s just not true.

Connolly is a member of the Queer Student Cultural Center, which partnered with multiple other student groups for the day’s events. The scope of HIV/AIDS is so broad, he said, extending beyond the queer community.

The QSCC has paired with the Disabled Student Cultural Center for its Lunch and Learn event, featuring a discussion about AIDS on a world basis. History senior Ben Faltesek said the event will give members of each group a chance to ask questions about the effect of AIDS on disabled individuals, an issue not often addressed specifically.

The QSCC is also teaming up with Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, another student group, to hang red ribbons around Northrop Plaza, and with the Youth and Aids Project to offer free HIV testing this afternoon in Coffman.

Connolly said the test can be intimidating, but it’s something that everyone should take. The first time he took the test, he said, he thought it was “the scariest thing,” – the stigma around it, the process and the “what if” question.

Once the process becomes routine, Connolly said, it’s more comfortable.

If students are unable to go or are insecure about being tested today, Boynton Health Service offers confidential testing by appointment throughout the year.