AIDS day raises awareness

While it may have dampened a few of their flyers, the rain did not keep some Yale student organizations from observing World AIDS Day Wednesday on campus.

The Yale AIDS Watch, along with Students for Microbicides, Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth, organized the day’s events to raise awareness about AIDS-related issues. Student volunteers put up fliers around campus, hung a banner on Cross Campus, gave out information about AIDS and sexual health at the entrance to Commons and circulated a petition urging Congress and the president to change the government’s abstinence-only sex education program. The day concluded with an evening vigil at First Methodist Church.

“World AIDS Day is a specific date to mobilize people and remember how much still needs to be done,” said Natalia Oberti Noguera ’05, the coordinator of Students for Microbicides.

World AIDS Day is an important time for AIDS prevention groups to spread awareness, AIDS Watch member Deeona Gaskin ’08 said. The day was first declared 16 years ago by the World Health Organization. Despite staggering statistics, a majority of people are not educated about the disease that infected 5 million people last year, Gaskin said.

“We still consider it to be a distant problem or an exotic problem, when it’s neither,” AIDS Watch member Donald Henschel ’07 said.

Volunteers stressed several methods of AIDS prevention, especially microbicides and comprehensive sex education in schools. Connecticut schools are not mandated by state law to provide sex education, and the use of microbicides in lower income countries could prevent 2.5 million HIV and sexually transmitted disease infections over three years, according to information distributed by the groups.

The volunteers cited different reasons for devoting time to participate in World AIDS Day. Some said they were acting in response to the recent increase of HIV and AIDS cases while others said they felt the government is failing to address the issue effectively.

“Currently, the administration is pursuing popularity and not concerned with doing what we need to do to save people’s lives,” Henschel said.

Yale’s AIDS prevention groups are planning future events to ensure that campus concern for these issues does not end after World AIDS Day. Yale AIDS Watch is working with the mayor’s AIDS prevention task force to plan a New Haven AIDS walk for April. The event will be the first of its kind in the past 10 years. Additionally, Advocates for Youth is organizing a city-wide forum to discuss sexual health and education as part of the My Vote Counts! Campaign.

Student AIDS activists hand out wristbands Wednesday to observe World AIDS Day.  Volunteers emphasized the importance of education, awareness and prevention methods, including microbicides.
Beth Ramenofsky
Student AIDS activists hand out wristbands Wednesday to observe World AIDS Day. Volunteers emphasized the importance of education, awareness and prevention methods, including microbicides.

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