Black Student Union helps with AIDS awareness

Action’s Program Director Julio Rodriguez explains the importance of HIV/AIDS awareness to inquiring students. (Shannon Patrick)

Katie Widner

The Center for Disease Control  estimates that about one million people in the United States are living with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, more commonly known as HIV or AIDS. About one quarter of these people do not know that they are infected. Not knowing puts them and others at risk.

HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.

The Black Student Union of Saddleback College hosted an AIDS Awareness Campaign on Tuesday Feb. 24 in the campus quad.

“One in every five people in the United States has AIDS,” said Club Vice President BiAnca Bailey, 18, psychology. “So we are promoting, sponsoring, and educating the Saddleback community about the disease.”

During the event, which lasted from noon to 2:30 p.m., students were provided complimentary drinks and refreshments along with live music, free condoms and an array of information on all aspects of learning about and dealing with the disease. The campaign was aimed at raising awareness about both the BSU club and about AIDS.

Members of the BSU club hung out at tables that lined the walkways. They handed out pamphlets that included information on everything from who may be at risk for AIDS to testing procedures and phone numbers for support hotlines. They also provided a questionnaire that students could fill out to see if they should get tested, and distributed condoms. Members of the Union handed out red ribbons to pin on clothing in order to show awareness.

“There are over 3,600 people in Orange County living with HIV,” said Bailey.

Knowledge of this disease is therefore extremely important to local college students. 

“If you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” said Eric James, 19, kinesiology. “You don’t know how to help yourself.”

 Echoing this sentiment is the United States CDC, which estimates on its Web site that close to 27 percent of Americans living with AIDS are unaware they have the disease.

The Orange County chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the support group AIDS Care Teams In Our Neighborhood, were both on hand at the event to further provide awareness.

“AIDS is no longer just a gay man’s disease. One-third of all new infections in the U.S. are women,” said Julio Rodriguez, the program director for ACTION.

Rodriguez spent the afternoon spreading the word about his group, which creates “Care Teams” that provide services like car rides, trips to the movies, or friendly conversations to those living with the disease. According to Rodriguez, oftentimes, patients isolate themselves due to the negative status of the disease.

For those interested in joining, the BSU club meets every Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the Library in Room 328.

Rodriguez stands in front of Action’s Care Teams display. Volunteer teams consist of 6-12 members. (Shannon Patrick)

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