Campus sheds light on 1980s AIDS epidemic
The 1980s may be remembered for many things, among them Reaganomics, MTV, the space shuttle Challenger and the death of John Lennon, but it may be the origin of the AIDS epidemic that has one of the most widespread and long-lasting effect on American lives.
The Byrne Family First-Year Seminar, "Photography and HIV/AIDS," in conjunction with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Center for Cultural Analysis, held a campus-wide series of events yesterday for World AIDS Day.
Enrico Cabredo, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student in the seminar, said although stereotypes about gay males or people in Africa exist, AIDS is an illness that does not discriminate.
"It's really a problem all over the world," Cabredo said. "We have the means to help prevent HIV and AIDS and how to help suppress it, but because of poverty, it's not really getting out there so we're trying to change that."
Students enrolled in the course sold World AIDS Day T-shirts for $5 at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, said Chelsea Callahan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior who helps teache the seminar.
School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Kim Bowers designed the shirts, and all proceeds will go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Students from the seminar printed the shirts to raise money for pediatric AIDS and to promote their photography exhibit "From Ethiopia to New Jersey: Photography and HIV/AIDS," at the Johnson & Johnson headquarters, Cabredo said.
"We explored different methods and found out our own way of spreading AIDS awareness, and that's what our work is about," he said. "We had to take photos for the exhibit, and that's what our work is based on — ways to answer questions about AIDS through photography."
During their classes, the Byrne seminar students developed their own questions about the disease, and their assignments consisted of taking pictures of their own visions in response to those questions.
"We realize that AIDS is something that has a large stigma attached to it," Callahan said. "It's not something that people fully understand or are aware of as a community problem. In every way, someone is affected no matter if they're sick or not."
One of several questions the students posed was "What are we afraid of?"
"[There] was a picture of one of my roommates outside of … our dorm building and floating around him was the word ‘isolation,'" Cabredo said. "I suspect people were afraid of being isolated because of AIDS, which shouldn't really be happening."
Tanya Sheehan, an assistant professor of art history, started the Byrne seminar, Callahan said. It was a result of her idea to get World AIDS Day recognized as a community event.
Practicing safer sex is an important issue for all college students, but it is likely a new feat for incoming and first-year students.
"They're not used to the new freedom that they have at college," said Benjamin Locke, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "A lot of them are nervous or embarrassed to talk about the topic of sex. Maybe they get drunk one night and do whatever."
Throughout all the campuses, the KO Team, which works to "knock out" AIDS, held "Candy and Condoms" to raise awareness about the disease. The KO Team distributed candy, condoms and informational pamphlets to educate the student body to practice safe sex and prevent the spread of HIV, said Jonathan Yarimi, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
To attract more people to the table of informational items, the KO Team used candy for the people who were shy about wanting to pick up a condom or being curious about safe sex practices.
"When people have a good feeling, they'll attribute it to something," Yarimi said. "We feel like they'll get a good feeling about the candy, so they'll get a good feeling toward safe sex."
For seven hours, Health Outreach, Promotion and Education offered confidential HIV testing at the Busch Campus Center. The University Sexual Health Advocates also presented a safer sex program at Voorhees Hall on the College Avenue campus.
About 50 students received free rapid HIV testing done with an oral swab, said Theresa Lord-Stout, a nurse practitioner. Tests were conducted anonymously, and students received results in 20 minutes. By getting tested, people who came also learned about how they could reduce their risks for HIV.
"When [they're] first infected [with HIV], many people don't even know they're infected," Lord-Stout said. "If there's any symptoms, they're often flu-like symptoms, which, of course, everybody gets. Many times people are unaware that they have been infected, thereby infecting a lot of other people."
Students who participate in risky behaviors, including sexual activity or intravenous drug abuse should be tested, said Dorothy Kozlowski, assistant director of the Hurtado Health Center.
Other students who should be tested include those who have doubts about their partners and those concerned that their partners do not know their HIV status.
Generally, the number of people infected with HIV has decreased slightly because individuals are paying closer attention to risky behavior, Kozlowski said.
"I think it's the education," she said. "I think it's the recognition that we are responsible for ourselves and that each person has to be committed to their own responsibility and responsibility to others."