Students, faculty observe World AIDS Day

In honor of the 25th annual World AIDS Day on Saturday, Dec. 1, student groups and faculty from across Yale College and the graduate schools raised awareness about the disease and reached out to New Haven residents suffering from AIDS.

Throughout the week leading up to World AIDS Day, groups across campus came together to discuss AIDS. Health professionals gathered at the Yale School of Medicine last Thursday to discuss research and progress of advocacy over the past few decades. On World AIDS Day, student organizations ventured into the city to raise awareness of the disease.

AIDS Walk leader Connie Zhao ‘14 said the organization has about 20 members and spends much of the year fundraising and organizing the actual walk, which takes place every April.

Five volunteers from the undergraduate student group spent Saturday morning at the Wooster Square farmers’ market handing out red ribbons and bags containing condoms, HIV/AIDS information pamphlets and World AIDS Day hats to commemorate the annual event.

“At the beginning of this year, AIDS Walk decided that we wanted to encourage Yale students to raise awareness in the New Haven community, in addition to the Yale community,” Zhao said. “We hoped that by going to the farmer’s market rather than having a speaker event for Yale students, we would be able to reach more members of the community.”

Later in the day, the AIDS Walk volunteers distributed more bags and served refreshments at a presentation at Liberty Community Services. Yale School of Medicine professor Frederick Altice spoke about the history of HIV/AIDS at Liberty.

Every Saturday, the Yale AIDS Support Coalition travels to the Leeway AIDS/HIV clinic in New Haven to socialize with the patients and help out at the center. While YASC did not organize a special event for World AIDS Day, YASC cofounder Monica Tung ’13 said YASC may plan special initiatives in upcoming years.

“In the past, Yale students have gone and played musical instruments or danced for the residents, and they have really enjoyed that,” she said.

While students have volunteered at Leeway in small groups for years, Tung said she started the student group this fall to coordinate the trips to the center and organize the volunteers for other initiatives. Tung said that on average five or six undergrads and graduate students make the trip to Leeway, which is located approximately two miles away.

Two days before World AIDS Day, a group of approximately 70 health professional students and faculty attended a special discussion panel hosted by the Yale Global Health Seminar and the Yale Tropical Medicine Course. The event was the first collaboration between these two global health elective courses, open to students from the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing and the Physician Associate Program.

Three School of Medicine professors specializing in infectious and microbial diseases and AIDS lectured briefly and then opened the discussion to questions from the audience.

Medical instructor Jeremy Schwartz, who organizes the Tropical Medicine Course, said the first presenter, Gerald Friedland, spoke about the impact of four important International AIDS Conferences, which have been held since 1985.

The 2012 International AIDS Conference, held this summer in Washington, D.C., marked the first time the conference was held in the United States since 1990, when its organizers protested the 1987 ban preventing people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country. The Obama administration lifted the travel ban in 2010.

“One theme that came out of the session was that we hear time and again that we will see the end of AIDS soon and that the next generation with be AIDS-free,” Schwartz said. “But the speakers pointed out that we are not there yet. Dr. Friedland said it’s the end of the beginning of AIDS. We have treatments and strategies that are effective, but fully mobilizing those is still years away.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that in the United States, 50,000 individuals are infected with HIV every year.

Correction: Dec. 5

A previous version of this article misquoted Jeremy Schwartz as saying that Gerland Friedland said “it’s the beginning of the end of AIDS.” 

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