To commemorate World AIDS Day, the HEART Wellness Resource Center will hold its annual Red Lounge event today, Dec. 4, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Underground of the Student Center.
The show will feature 16 different performers, several interactive displays by AIDS Fund and free HIV testing, all while raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme is “Getting to Zero — Know Your Status, Get Tested!”
“Red Lounge is Temple’s way of showing support for World AIDS Day,” said Diedre Berry-Guy, the healthy lifestyles program coordinator for HEART. “The HEART office takes it one step further and makes it a day of education and awareness of HIV/AIDS on campus.”
HEART is an organization focused on helping students make informed and healthy choices. It provides wellness education resources and prevention services on Main Campus that include individual health sessions and the sale of safe-sex products.
More than 50 students involved with HEART will be working at Red Lounge as hosts, surveyors and communication committee members.
“Our students are working every arm of this event to make it a success,” Berry-Guy said.
Cayla Conover, a sophomore public health major, has been making decorations and arranging tables in preparation for her job as hostess. She will be ready to greet guests and answer all questions about HEART and HIV education at Red Lounge.
“I’ll be a smiling, happy face to welcome everyone to the Red Lounge environment,” Conover said. “HIV/AIDS is still a prevalent problem today. It should be a personal goal to know your status and practice healthy behaviors.”
AIDS Fund will be present at the event with its educational timeline project titled “1981 – Until It’s Over.” The timeline depicts pivotal moments in history regarding the HIV epidemic. AIDS Fund will also be creating a memorial collage out of red ribbons with personal messages.
“The event is in honor of those who have died due to complications from AIDS and in support of those who are living with HIV today,” Berry-Guy said. “But it’s also in celebration of those who continue to make positive sexual decisions every day.”
The showcased acts at Red Lounge will be performing on behalf of everyone affected by HIV. Performers include TU Belly Dancers, In Motion dance ensemble and OwlCappella, among others.
“Last year, we had 10 performers and nearly 150 attendees,” Berry-Guy said. “This year, we have 16 performers, so we’re expecting a very successful evening and we’re hoping to expand our support.”
In light of all the festivities, the primary goal of the night is to reach the overwhelming majority of students who have yet to get tested for HIV. In addition to the free testing that will be offered at Red Lounge, the HEART office offers free, confidential testing in both fall and spring semesters on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Despite this convenience, tester turnout has remained low.
“Less than 10 percent of students get tested for HIV,” Berry-Guy said. “Yet every year there’s new cases of HIV-positive students on [Main] Campus.”
According to the statistics provided at HEART from the American College Health Association, one out of five people living with HIV do not know it. There are approximately 1.2 million people in the United States with HIV and one-third of all new HIV infections are among young adults under the age of 29.
“We want all students to be aware of their status,” Berry-Guy said. “Our goal is to get at least 20 people tested at Red Lounge with the hope that it will open the floodgates of students coming to HEART every week to utilize our free testing.”
Research has shown that ignorance is the leading cause of the HIV epidemic.
“Those who are living with HIV and know their status can receive treatment and reduce transmission rate by over 96 percent,” Berry-Guy said. “That means that the likelihood of people transmitting HIV in treatment is less than 4 percent. Getting to know your status reduces the risk of transmitting the disease to loved ones and helps end the epidemic.”
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.