Shauna DeLuca, the chair of the World AIDS Day Committee in Fort Collins, stood in front of a small crowd in the Lory Student Center Monday and told them as generations pass, increasingly fewer people are aware of the AIDS pandemic.
In a testimony to her subject, only about 10 students who did not participate in the organizations that arranged the speeches and subsequent candle light vigil honoring the 20th annual World AIDS Day attended the event.
“This was the lowest turnout we’ve ever seen,” DeLuca said of the program, which has come to CSU every one of the past 10 years.
“But what can you do? It’s the first day after break, and it’s a different time of day than usual. It’s hard,” she said to the students, faculty and local AIDS education leaders who met in the basement of the LSC to speak about the growing epidemic and to honor those who have passed.
And a repeated theme of the various lectures shared was what they said is a dangerous ignorance that is putting students and young people at high risk of infection.
“A lot of students don’t feel vulnerable,” said Jennifer Harman, another member of the WADC. “Don’t believe your partner is uninfected unless they’ve taken a test. Without a test, there is no knowing. You can’t go on assuming.”
Harman said that one out of 500 college students carries the virus.
She also compared the war on AIDS to the U.S. war on terror, saying that billionsmore need to be spent on the AIDS battle.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of AIDS deaths in the U.S. surpassed 566,000 in 2006, and Harman said Monday that more than 2 million die globally from the disease each year.
Harman also voiced concern of the common misconceptions that surround the virus, like the false belief that it is limited to homosexuals.
“There are no guns, bombs or armies in this war,” she said. “The way to fight this war is with awareness, education and de-stigmatization.”
Jen Lowe, a prevention specialist at the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, agreed that the stigma cripples efforts to stop AIDS.
“People don’t realize the ways that you can and can’t get AIDS,” she said. “Saliva and sweat do not transmit the virus. And it’s not a ‘gay disease;’ it affects all people. It doesn’t discriminate.”
Lowe and most of the other lecturers all echoed the importance of getting tested.
“The way to stop the spread starts individually,” Lowe said, acknowledging the difficulty of making sure your partner has been tested.
“Sex is so easy to do, but so hard to talk about. . You need to talk to your partner,” she said.
To get more students to know their infection status, NCAP will be offering free HIV risk assessment and testing in room 213 of the LSC on Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Staff writer Trevor Simonton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.