HIV awareness promoted at WKU for World AIDS Day

Amanda Young

Every nine-and-a-half minutes, someone becomes HIV positive.

World AIDS Day was marked at WKU on Thursday in the form of several programs from free HIV testing to a candlelight vigil in honor of those with the disease.

World AIDS Day is a movement that began in the United Kingdom to raise awareness about people who are living HIV positive without a cure.

Evansville senior Chad Beswick, president of the WKU chapter of the Kentucky Public Health association, coordinated all of the events to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS.

“The whole point of World AIDS Day is to heighten awareness,” Beswick said. “This day is about remembering what you have and what others don’t have.”

The day began with free HIV tests in Downing University Center. According to Beswick, around 70 tests were done, more than double from last year.

“Last year was our first attempt,” Bewsick said. “We really raised the bar this time.”

Following the testing, there was a poetry slam — an open mic for poets to read their writing — hosted in the DUC Auditorium.

Five students took the stage to recite their poetry with a few other audience members taking the stage afterward.

Elizabethtown senior Andrea Denise, a member of WKU’s Spoken Word Unit, presented her poem which was a narrative from the perspective of a girl living with HIV.

“My poem was about a female who gets HIV from her boyfriend,” Denise said. “Even though she does the good things in life, there’s not a cure and she’s heartbroken.

“I had to listen to a lot of other poets who had done pieces on HIV for inspiration.”

Denise said she felt that all of the poetry read could be eye-opening for members of the audience.

“It opens the door and eliminates that, ‘Oh, it’s not me’ and, ‘I don’t know people who have that’ type of feeling,’” she said.

Richard Hayne, a sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., wrote his poem about his experience with a person that lost their life to the disease.

“This is a poem that I’ve been trying to write for the last five years. This event pushed me to try. Andy was a forensics coach that worked at my high school. I met him my freshman year, right as I was about to drop out,” Hayne said. ”He would always push me to do better, but I would blow him off.

“As I was filing the paperwork to drop out, I got a phone call the he passed away. He was the reason I stayed in school.”

Hayne said he has worked very hard to make people aware of the disease and its devastating effects.

“I hope people see how serious this matter is,” he said. “It’s really easy to just push it to the side because most of us don’t interact with it on a daily basis. But it doesn’t only affect those who have it.”

Immediately after the poetry slam, a candlelight vigil was held in memorial of those who fought and are fighting HIV and AIDS.

Several students and faculty members attended, making a circle of candles at Centennial Mall.

Beswick gave a speech on the devastation of the disease and his hopes for the future.

“This disease does not discriminate. If you’re black, if you’re white, if you’re male, if you’re female, you’re gay or straight — it doesn’t care,” he said. “I hope we are not doing this in thirty more years. I hope we beat this thing.”

Cecilia Watkins, an associate professor in the department of Human Health and a participant in the vigil, said she believes that it is important to support this cause.

“Sometimes in a small town, issues like this are not recognized as needed or important and I think we need to show that it is,” Watkins said. “I think this program is very good — very needed.”

“This day is about remembering,” Beswick added. “So what if you’re not infected? Are you affected? Be the change. We can make the difference.”