It was about 25 years ago that AIDS became a worldwide epidemic destined to drain life from the souls of both the young and the old while baffling the minds of scientists seeking a cure.
AIDS has impacted lives around the world, and each country has its own story to tell. It is an astonishing battle against time. The AIDS Fund Philly plays a vital role in the promotion of awareness with its annual AIDS Walk. This year’s walk will take place Sunday, Oct. 15.
“There are new infections every 13 minutes
in this country,” said AIDS Fund Philly executive director Robb Reichard. Established in 1987 by Philadelphia’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center and Penguin
Place volunteers, AIDS Walk Philly raised $33,000 in its first year. This year, the financial goal is to exceed last year’s half a million dollars.
AIDS Fund is a nonprofit organization that supports 30 Greater Philadelphia partner organizations to promote AIDS prevention and education, and to provide direct-care services to patients suffering from the disease.
“It is a greater and greater challenge because so many people in the world may think it’s over,” Reichard said. AIDS Fund continues community inclusive efforts throughout the year. These include its nationally recognized Black-Tie Gay Bingo, which consists of dinner, a silent auction and dancing. Gay Bingo has been in effect for 10 years. A memorial event is held Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, to remember those lost and those living with the disease.
“Half of new infections are among people under the age of 25,” Reichard said. “The thing that [participants and volunteers] all share is the desire to see an end to the epidemic.” The mobilization of volunteers in their efforts also span to college campuses, including Temple. On behalf of United Way, the Temple Way Campaign utilizes university and employee resources in an effort to collect funds. AIDS Fund is one of the health and social
services organizations receiving funding in the Philadelphia community.
The Temple Health Empowerment Office
is also active in promoting awareness. In conjunction with Student Health Services, THEO’s Congresso de Latinos Unidos provides free anonymous AIDS testing by appointment, twice a week.
THEO also provides the Temple community
with information about AIDS and a list of local places off-campus that provide free testing.
More information about the disease can be found at www.temple.edu/theo/HIV, and at THEO’s office, located in the lower level of Mitten Hall.
In an effort to promote World AIDS Day education and open discussion about this disease, THEO will host its second annual Red Lounge.
“The theory behind it is edu-tainment,” said senior and THEO intern Mercedes Gutierrez.
“The best way to bring people in would be through entertainment and at the same time, we hope they get an educational message.”
This event will mesh entertainment and educational pieces while providing free AIDS testing on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Contributors and speakers range from representatives of Congresso de Latinos Unidos and Blacks Educating
Blacks About Sexual Health Issues to other student organizations.
Four million people globally became infected with HIV last year, raising the number of individuals now living with the virus that causes AIDS to 40 million.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 40,000 people are infected with HIV in the United States each year. Of the people diagnosed, 73 percent were males and 27 percent were females. The number of people dying from AIDS has decreased by 8 percent as the number of people diagnosed with AIDS has increased by 8 percent.
According to the CDC, the estimated number of people in the U.S. living with AIDS has increased 30 percent from 2000 through 2004. Twenty-four percent to 27 percent of HIV-positive people are undiagnosed and unaware of their status. Blacks, who make up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, represent an estimated half of the new diagnoses in 2004. In 2002, AIDS was the leading cause of death for black females aged 25 to 34. In Philadelphia, “there are 30,000 people living with the HIV disease,” Reichard said. “Over a quarter [of them] don’t know. While the gay community continues to be impacted, we’re seeing the number of women and youth infected grow every year.”
In 2004, the largest estimated demographic
that was diagnosed in the U.S. was men who have sex with men.
“There is a huge stereotype that AIDS is a gay disease,” said Tom Armstrong, president of Common Ground, a gay-straight alliance at Temple.
According to a United Nations study, one in four gay males are at risk. Neglected populations also encompass sex workers, injecting drug users and prisoners. “AIDS is part of our community’s history,” Armstrong said. “A lot of people still feel a connection and a fear of that disease.”
Sherice Brammer can be reached at email@example.com.