‘We are people’: Vigil aimed at promoting HIV/AIDS awareness

Jasmine Bowie, a senior from Mannheim, Germany, protected her flame from the wind as she stood outside in the 35-degree weather during the candlelight vigil for HIV/AIDS awareness at Centennial Mall. The event organizer, Chad Beswick, invited attendees to speak about their experiences with HIV/AIDS. He said that he was excited to see that the amount of people who attended the vigil had tripled since last year and said, “We need to realize this every day, not just once a year.”

Hannah Bushon

Evansville junior Chad Beswick had a clear message for the group of about 40 people who gathered at Centennial Mall on Wednesday evening.

“We are not gay; we are not straight; we are not white or black; we are people,” he said.

Beswick led a candlelight vigil on Wednesday to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and bring hope to those living with either.

The vigil was sponsored by the WKU Department of Public Health, and the Kentucky Public Health Association.

Beswick encouraged WKU students, as well as members of the Bowling Green community, to open up to the group and recount stories of the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives.

The vigil was strategically planned for Dec. 1 – World AIDS Day, which is designed to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS, according to the organization’s website.

Every nine-and-a-half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV, Beswick said.

Cecilia Watkins, associate public health professor, attended the vigil and spoke to the group about the importance of changing social stigmas surrounding AIDS.

She later stressed the importance of supporting “any group of people in need and equality in availability in medicine” for those currently infected with HIV/AIDS.

Watkins advised students to get tested regularly, practice safe sex and avoid using drugs where needles are involved.

In order to raise awareness about World AIDS day and the severity of HIV/AIDS, information was distributed during the fair trade market on the third floor of Downing University Center on Wednesday.

According to information packets Beswick passed out, HIV can be transmitted through injectable drugs with dirty needles and unprotected sex, and it’s only preventable by avoiding such drugs and using barrier methods, such as latex condoms.

Megan Paschall of Health Services said the facilities offer free HIV testing once a month, generally on the first Tuesday of the month.

The free tests will resume Feb. 8, 2011, she said.