Who me? Couldn’t be! Or could it?
Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, and student and community groups alike are uniting to do their part to raise awareness around the rapidly spreading disease. The groups hope that through education students will be able to make more educated choices when it comes to sexual health.
According to Barb Cardell, a community member living with HIV and a volunteer with the Boulder County Aids Project, 40,000 Americans are infected with the disease each year, and 25 percent of those infected don’t know they are.
After being infected, Cardell made it her priority to help connect with others living with HIV and AIDS and to educate others about the increasingly prominent disease.
“Being infected [with HIV] changed every aspect of my life. I am married and wanted to have children and no longer could. I lost my job as an executive chef, my body completely changed and I felt extremely alienated. However, if people were more educated I think things would have been much different for me,” Cardell said.
HIV and AIDS education have greatly improved in the last decade. However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the disease, and scientists have yet to discover a cure.
With more than 3 million people dying each year as a result of AIDS and no sign of the disease slowing down, awareness, education and research are more important than ever, according to www.worldvision.org.
“It is important for people to realize that although [HIV and AIDS] may be more abundant in other areas of the world, it is still happening in the U.S. People need to deal with that fact and the fact that they need to change,” Cardell said.
Cardell contracted HIV thirteen years ago from a trusted boyfriend and believed, like many other people in monogamous relationships, that she was at low risk of contracting the HIV virus.
“The fact is that people lie to have sex. HIV can happen to anyone. My advice to everyone is to be smart and most of all be educated,” Cardell said.
Wardenburg Health Center held events on Dec. 1 in conjunction with other student and community groups to help students realize the impact of HIV and AIDS.
“Our hope is to increase awareness and education for students around campus,” Jonna Fleming, the director of the Sexual Health Education Program for Wardenburg Health Center, said.
A “Wall of Support” stood in the UMC from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. where students could pick up red ribbons in support of people who are living with HIV and AIDS. Information about HIV and AIDS was also available.
A candlelight vigil was also held on the UMC Terrace from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
For more information about World AIDS Day visit www.worldvision.org and the Wardenburg Health Center Sexual Health Education Program at www.colorado.edu/healthcenter.shep.
For a free and confidential HIV Test, contact the Wardenburg Health Center.