For many individuals throughout the world, yesterday was not an average day. Instead it was a day designated to acknowledge those who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS, a time to provide support to those currently living with the virus and the occasion to raise awareness of the fact that no one is immune to HIV and AIDS.
The Office of Diversity Affairs, along with the Gay-Straight Alliance, participated in World AIDS Day 2010. They hosted a series of events allowing students on campus to recognize World AIDS day.
“The Office of Diversity Affairs has participated in World AIDS Day for the past two years; we thought it was very important to bring this kind of awareness about,” Diversity Affairs Coordinator George Jackson said.
To recognize World AIDS Day 2010, a “World AIDS Day Display” was shown, which acted as an information station, informing students about the HIV and AIDS virus, and encouraged them to openly support World AIDS Day by wearing a sticker. Later in the evening, a Randy Shilts best-seller film, titled “And The Band Played On” was shown in Cody Commons, located in the lower level of Memorial Union.
“And The Band Played On follows the struggle of a handful of strong-willed men and women who took on the fight to save lives. The Center for Disease Control seeks to uncover the cause of a number of mysterious deaths. But as the death toll mounts, public interest is stirred and it becomes desperate race against time.” Jackson said.
“One thing that was a success in previous years and something we will continue to do this year, is The AIDS Silent Auction,”
Fort Hays students and faculty members have donated art pieces to be sold in the silent auction, being held on the main floor of Memorial Union. Previous proceeds from the auction have been donated to the AIDS Research Alliance, an organization working to develop a cure and more efficient treatment for victims of HIV and AIDS. This year, proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to cancer research.
The topic of HIV and AIDS is not usually present in daily, ordinary conversation. In fact, the topic is often ignored and considered uncomfortable.
“My goal with this office is never just to offer things that make people feel comfortable, sometimes you have to push people out of their comfort zones,” Jackson said.
Fort Hays students and faculty who want to correct myths and educate the surrounding community have brought attention to the topic of HIV and AIDS and its reality.
“Many times we get stuck on the issue of, it’s just in Africa, or it’s just a gay-related disease and people don’t realize how many straight individuals get or can get HIV and AIDS,” Jackson said.
HIV and AIDS is not a disease contracted primarily from gay individuals, so they are not to be blamed or bashed for their lifestyle.
“I am a pretty firm believer that being gay is not something you choose, if it was a choice most people would not choose it,” Jackson said. “This is a lifestyle and we want people to know more about that, they may never use this information again or they may use it in a paper, or to talk literally about it,”
Students have a choice to listen and retain the information or dispose of it. Whichever is decided upon, World AIDS Day is a reminder that, HIV and AIDS has a global affect and impact.
“Id like students to remember that this is a global issue and global means that it could effect their lives, so they need to be safe having sex because they don’t know what their partner has been doing in the past,” Jackson said. “Be aware that AIDS is not something that you discover overnight, it really is the invisible disease.”