Students must remember the HIV pathogen and other STDs do not discriminate.
As Alyssa Saylor reports today in The Temple News, Temple Queer Student Union President Nina Melito said it was a “no-brainer” for QSU to participate in AIDS Walk Philly, the largest fundraising and awareness event for HIV/AIDS in the Philadelphia region. [“Campus groups pledge support for AIDS Walk Philly,” Page 1]
Participation and support from student-organizations in community events like AIDS Walk Philly is a key part of the university’s relationship with the people of Philadelphia. But The Temple News wants to remind readers that HIV prevention and awareness should be a “no-brainer” for everyone.
The number of people living with HIV is alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of individuals living with HIV infection in the U.S. is more than 1 million – the largest number of infected people on record.
While HIV significantly affects certain populations – its diagnoses rate is highest among men who have sex with men, blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, according to the CDC – no group is immune.
According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS “Epidemiological Update,” 51.1 percent of newly diagnosed incidents of HIV in 2007 were contracted through heterosexual contact.
The CDC reported that 53 percent of all new cases are in the 30- to 49-year-old age bracket and that HIV infection is the leading cause of death for black and African-American women ages 25 to 34.
It’s commendable for groups like QSU and Christian-based student group TempleUnited to participate in AIDS Walk Philly, but with HIV prevalence across the board, a broader spectrum of organizations should be proactive in preventing infection.
Students should take advantage of Temple’s Health Education and Awareness Resource Team, where students have access to condoms, literature, a professional staff and peer mentors to educate students on HIV prevention.
When it comes to STDs, knowledge truly is power. AIDS is no longer a death sentence thanks to recent medical advances – but to get treatment, you must know your status.
In conjunction with the COLOURS Organization, an educational advocacy and support group for GLBT people in Philadelphia, HEART offers rapid HIV testing on Thursdays and select Tuesdays.
Getting tested, staying informed and spreading awareness are all crucial to decreasing HIV rates, but the first step toward making a significant change is realizing everyone is equally vulnerable to the HIV pathogen.