No face, no race

By Priya Larson and Sonali Varhade

Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Although significant steps have been taken in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the disease maintains its status as a worldwide epidemic. This week, in commemoration of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, a variety of Tufts groups are hosting events.

As co−leaders of the HIV/AIDS Initiative, a Leonard Carmichael Society group, we will focus our efforts on the impact of HIV/AIDS in our own neighborhood. Although the disease seems to be a distant and irrelevant issue, Tufts students might be surprised to learn that HIV/AIDS is present in our own community. The epidemic is not limited by geographical or social boundaries, and this week's events serve as acknowledgement of this fact. As stated by our posters around campus, "AIDS knows no face, no race."

Advancements in research and medicine have facilitated much progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Given access and affordability of proper care, a positive status is no longer a death sentence. Global humanitarian endeavors seek to provide such care to populations that would otherwise have none, and thus prevention has increased considerably. A recent UNAIDS report revealed that the world's AIDS prevalence has reached a plateau of annual new infections; however, that plateau is at a staggering 2.7 million new infections each year. The majority of those infected with HIV/AIDS do not have accessible or affordable care. In fact, only half the people who need immediate treatment receive it. Furthermore, donor funds drop as our economic crisis deepens.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic infiltrates all corners of the world and is present in the most unexpected of places. We assume that here at Tufts, in Massachusetts, or in America, we might be immune from the reaches of HIV/AIDS. However, our goal is to raise awareness of the true and extensive prevalence of the disease in society, community, and school. This is not to instill fear, but rather to increase understanding and establish control. This week's events provide the opportunity to raise this awareness.

Tonight at 9 p.m. in Hotung Café, we invite you to share your own experiences or opinions concerning HIV/AIDS at our open mic event, "Facing AIDS," which you can check out on Facebook. We encourage all students to participate in hopes of initiating discussion about and further increasing awareness of our community's relation to this epidemic, as well as to eradicate negative stigma associated with a positive status. Enjoy desserts, games and performances by Envy, Over the Rainbow, Dirty River String Band and more.

Facing AIDS also serves as a fundraiser for Youth on Fire, a Cambridge−based organization that provides a safe space and shelter for homeless and street−involved youth and promotes HIV prevention, testing, and care. Tufts' HIV/AIDS Initiative has taken a vested interested in providing as many funds and goods for Youth on Fire as possible. After delivering clothes and goods from our donation drive last year, we were amazed by the influence the organization exhibited on Cambridge area youth. These youth were so excited to receive something as small as a backpack, and this excitement made the donation especially gratifying. This year Youth on Fire was struggling to provide meals. We hope the Facing AIDS fundraiser can help the organization in any way possible. $1 buys a raffle ticket to win Somerville Theater passes, a dozen Kickass cupcakes, and gift cards to J.P. Licks, Namaskar and True Bistro.

Join HIV/AIDS Initiative, GlobeMed, and Vox, for games, free giveaways, and to buy raffle tickets. We will be tabling today, Wednesday Nov. 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Mayer Campus Center and from 5 to 7 p.m. in Dewick−MacPhie Dining Hall.

On Thursday, Dec.1, World AIDS Day, Lecturer of Community Health Kevin Irwin will be discussing "The Medicalization of HIV/AIDS: Prospects and Consequences." Head down to the Remis Sculpture Court in Aidekman at 12 p.m. to hear Irwin speak and to see a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt! It is truly an honor for Tufts to host this quilt, which is part of The NAMES Project Foundation remembrance for those who have lost their lives to the epidemic. Founded in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt project is a collection of panels that continues to grow and has been displayed all over the world. In 1996, there were enough panels to cover the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C. This past week, campus groups at Tufts have been making their own panels, which will be displayed in the Remis Sculpture Court on Thursday.

What else can you do to help? Know your status. AIDS knows no face, no race, no limits and no exceptions. Health Service is offering free HIV testing on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 9−11:30 a.m. This confidential rapid HIV test involves a short, private, informative session in the Health Service facilities. Although on World AIDS Day this testing will be free to anyone and everyone, the testing is available year−round with Tufts Student Health Insurance on specified dates and times at Health Service. Though you might think you are exempt from the reaches of AIDS, no one can be sure until he or she is tested. Be responsible and know your status: get tested!

We encourage everyone to get involved in this week's activities for World AIDS Day. Every event helps to raise awareness, whether it's by sharing your thoughts for a minute, listening to a speaker, purchasing a $1 raffle ticket, making a quilt panel or getting tested. With everyone working together to maximize awareness and knowledge, we can regain control from this worldwide epidemic one person at a time. HIV/AIDS Initiative, the African Students Organization, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Center, the International Center, GlobeMed, Over the Rainbow, Tufts Voices for Choice (VOX), the Women's Center, Health Service and the Crafts Center have worked hard to put on this week's events. See you tonight!

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Priya Larson is a senior who is majoring in economics. Sonali Varhade is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major.

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