Today at Hodges Library the Lambda Student Union and the Safety, Environment and Education Center, better known as S.E.E. Center, teamed up to host a FACING of AIDS initiative.
The initiative’s goal is to help reduce stigma and promote HIV testing by putting a face to AIDS for World AIDS day, Dec. 1. Students who wanted to participate typed in their reason for facing AIDS on to an iPad or cell phone and took a picture to accompany their reason; adding a face AIDS. The picture was uploaded to a gallery on facing.AIDS.gov.
“We’re trying to prevent college students from getting HIV/AID,” Rosa Thomas, coordinator at the S.E.E. Center, said. She said that college students can be in denial about HIV/AIDS and think that they are immortal. Thomas explained that this kind of event allowed students to put an actual picture on HIV/AIDS and this will help deal with the reality of the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, 75 percent of HIV diagnoses occurred in young people aged 20-24 years. This age group had the highest number and rate of HIV diagnoses of any age group. The CDC website statistic does not have a statistic slot specifically carved out for college students and campuses but the age ranges speak for themselves.
Students were also encouraged to get tested for HIV. The Knox County Health Department provided students with the opportunity to do so in a room in the library. Testing was quick and painless. Students that were tested had the inside of their mouth swabbed and the results were ready in 10 to 40 minutes. Students were able to find out their status the same day. HIV counseling referral services are also available.
“To me personally, I think it is important to promote visibility, spread awareness, try to de-stigmatize not only stereotypes about HIV, but also to make sure people are educated and get tested and to look at the resources today,” Brooke King, vice president of Lambda Student Union said. King felt like an impact was really being made on the UT community. “I know a lot of people have gone and gotten HIV tested, people are interested and want to learn more and show their support and it’s a really great experience so far,” said King.
Edited by Zach Dennis