Towson tackles AIDS issue
Every year on Dec. 1, people all over the world gather for World AIDS Day to combat the spread of AIDS, encourage awareness of how it is contracted and how it can be prevented and commemorate the lives that have been lost at the hands of the disease.
To recognize World AIDS Day, Towson hosted events organized by the University and the Center for Student Diversity. Students were encouraged to take pictures and post messages of awareness to social media using the hashtag #TUFacingAids.
According to Courtney Becker, a health educator at the Dowell Health Center, since the day of awareness fell on a Sunday it would have been impossible to hold any kind of event on the actual day of awareness.
“We wanted to still do something on campus so we decided to do a World AIDS Week. So it’s all week with a number of different educational opportunities for students to learn about how HIV and AIDS affects them and the larger world outside of the Towson community. So we have a number of educational tables and we have a few panel presentations we’re going to be doing,” Becker said.
Instead, the University decided to hold events throughout the week. On Monday, International Student & Scholar Office and the International Student Association held a panel discussion with international students on the topic of how HIV and AIDS pertained to them and how it was perceived or treated in their country. The countries represented were India, Russia, Ghana and Nigeria. The students discussed predominant means of transmission, differences in health care systems and treatment, awareness efforts and the ways their governments had responded respective to their own countries.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Baltimore County Department of Health and the Dowell Health Center offered free HIV and STI testing. During the week, there were tables throughout the University Union offering free condoms and multiple pamphlets and brochures with information about safer sex, HIV/AIDS and STI prevention and resources available for those affected by a disease.
In the Potomac Lounge, there was an interactive digital display of a World AIDS Quilt featuring thousands of pictures of those who had fallen victim to the disease with information about their lives and when they passed away. Students have been encouraged to come in and using a computer, zoom in on the many different pieces of the quilt to learn the stories of the different victims.
Astrid Aniwa, a graduate student from Ghana and forensic science major, attended the events. She said she believes that it is extremely important to rid HIV and AIDS of its “hush hush” stigma.
“A lot of people just think it’s really bad,” Aniwa said. “If you go get a HIV test then everybody will think I’ve been sleeping around or not using condoms and that kind of thing. But people should get tested at least twice a year.”
Events will continue throughout the week, including a Thoughtful Thursday at 11 a.m. at Freedom Square and informational tables on safer sex practices in the Union.
Aniwa said she hopes that events like Towson’s help increase awareness, and therefore safety.
“It’s very important because most kids on a college campus have multiple sex partners and they need to know about using protection and how to prevent getting HIV through other means and also treatment for HIV if you contract the disease,” she said.
For more information about HIV and AIDS, contact the Center for Student Diversity.