Main Campus kicked off World AIDS Week and observed World AIDS Day – which raise awareness and celebrate achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS – with the fourth-annual Red Lounge in the Student Center Underground Dec. 1.
Black and red tablecloths covered tables in the middle of the room, and a buffet table by the entrance offered attendees an assortment of food and beverages. Panels from the National AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display against the back wall of the Underground and served as a tribute to those lives lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“It’s very moving and a very reflective experience,” Kate Schaeffer, coordinator for Judicial Affairs in Residential Life, said of the quilt.
Schaeffer was a part of the committee, which included Residential Life, Temple’s Health Education Awareness Resource Team and student workers, that sponsored the Red Lounge, as well as other activities for Temple’s World AIDS Week.
Schaeffer enjoyed the teamwork and administrative effort to raise awareness and support for the HIV/AIDS epidemic through events like Red Lounge.
“We as a community can use education and awareness about the disease itself and learn from the people living with it,” Schaeffer said. “We can use this event to approach [HIV/AIDS] as a reflective, educational and awareness celebration toward the movement and strides made to find a cure and make this something livable for the people dealing with it.”
The event consisted of student performances and guest speakers to commemorate World AIDS Day and raise awareness about the epidemic.
Arielle Catron, a senior women’s studies major, hosted Red Lounge. She said she was pleased with the turnout of the event, as well as the speakers and student performers.
“It was my first time performing, and it was the same for many other students, and it was a safe atmosphere to try something out,” Catron said.
Three Temple students performed Bhangra, a traditional Indian dance performed at festivals throughout the year, to commemorate the way HIV/AIDS affects India. Dana Blechman, a junior Spanish major, performed the song “3,000 Miles,” and dedicated the song to those suffering or affected by HIV/AIDS. Cody Kleppertknoop, a junior social work major, did an Irish step dance as tribute.
A group of female students known as “The Ladies of Elegance,” also step danced and shouted out facts and figures relating to HIV/AIDS, including “six in 10 African-American females in Philadelphia are infected with HIV,” and “in 2009, AIDS increased by 95 percent in the United States.”
The part of the event the audience paid special attention to was the two guest speakers, Patrick McGee, a close friend of HEART Program Director Dina Stonberg, and Temple class of 2000 alum and Stonberg’s former student, Danielle Parks, director of Women’s Anonymous Test Site.
“Even if you aren’t affected by HIV, you are still affected by it,” Parks said. “We’ve all got to realize this.”
McGee told the audience his story of how he contracted HIV in 1982, after being sexually assaulted at a fraternity party on his college campus.
“I’m in my 27th year of living with the virus, and I look damn good,” McGee said.
He then informed the audience of the importance of getting tested and that before that comes prevention and protection, which he says includes education and awareness and safe sexual practices.
“You need to educate yourselves about the subject because people never think it’s going to happened to them,” McGee told the audience. “Trust me, that’s what I thought, and I’ve lost 11 friends in six months to this disease.”
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at email@example.com.