Thursday, Dec. 1, in order to celebrate World AIDS Day, Elizabethtown College’s Student Wellness Advocacy Group (S.W.A.G.) urged students to become aware of the effects that AIDS can have on all of us. S.W.A.G. had a table with student representatives on the two days leading up to the universally recognized day in order to inform other students on the severity of the matter that has been overlooked in the past.
Many students find they do not know the difference between HIV and AIDS. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, can eventually turn into AIDS, which is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV can be passed from person to person and transmitted through bodily fluid, such as blood. Many people who contract this disease do not know these differences.
“A lot of people assume that it’s not prevalent in the US because it’s a big problem in Third World countries,” sophomore and S.W.A.G. member Hannah Burleigh stated. Burleigh planned the event to increase awareness around the campus on World AIDS Day.
The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988 to raise awareness and to honor those who lost their lives to AIDS. It has since helped spread relief to those who suffer from AIDS.
There were red ribbons handed out to interested students who were asked to wear them that Thursday. The red ribbon is the sign of AIDS and is worn in support of those that are affected by this disease.
“Globally, there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus,” the World AIDS website states. While developing countries are more prone to this disease, they are not the only ones affected.
The tables in the BSC featured many opportunities to educate students on this matter. It also had the wellness wheel and pamphlets for students to test themselves and expand their knowledge.
One of the best ways to get educated on the matter is to “Speak Up” and talk with those around you, as highlighted in a pamphlet made by Burleigh. The pamphlet also emphasizes using condoms and getting yourself tested regularly. There are sites nearby that test for HIV.
According to senior and S.W.A.G. member Kassandra Valdez, around 94 Etown students had stopped by the table and taken a red ribbon to wear in honor of awareness and those who lost their lives to the disease. Nearly a hundred students in general visited the table for more information and helped in the goal of educating those on campus of this disease.
For any students that may be worried about this disease, the College in partnership with Planned Parenthood offers STI testing once a semester. The results are reviewed in a private manner, and students will meet with medical professionals when the tests come back. These professionals are there to help counsel students if the tests are positive. They will help the students with transitioning into life with the disease, both physically and mentally.
While the event on campus focused on primarily educating the students further on the AIDS situation in both the world and our country, there are many efforts out there to collect donations for the medications and the healthcare that people need to survive. With no cure for HIV, there are many medications that are necessary to help combat the symptoms.
This event may progress in the future. S.W.A.G. hopes to bring a speaker to campus next year on World AIDS Day to help spread awareness and to stress the importance of knowing the facts. There are many ways to help those with the disease on World AIDS Day and many opportunities to remember those who have lost their battle with AIDS.