AIDS Compassion

Marlene Brueggmann

Lisa Lindley wanted more than an exhibit of photos at Downing University Center to help raise AIDS awareness during World AIDS Day Monday.

Lindley, a public health professor, invited several HIV-positive Kentuckians to participate in a memorial service at Mass Media and Technology Hall. They all declined.

Many people infected with AIDS are not willing to be open about their status, she said.

“They felt that the environment is unsafe for them to reveal their HIV status,” she said. “It’s sad that in 2003 they still feel that they have to hide.”

But AIDS is a not just a sensitive subject for those directly affected by it.

Lindley said students’ reactions to AIDS differ. Although things have gotten better over the years, many people are still uninformed and often shy away from the subject.

“They are afraid what other people might think of them and think that AIDS doesn’t apply to them,” she said.

And sometimes they simply don’t care, she said.

Shelbyville sophomore Chris Nation said he went to the showing of the documentary “Pandemic: Facing AIDS” at Media Hall more for extra credit in his personal health class than for personal interest. But Nation said it definitely increased his awareness of the disease.

“I learned a lot about AIDS that I didn’t know,” he said.

With the theme “Living and Let Live – Ending Stigma and Discrimination,” Western’s World AIDS Day events began at DUC and included free condoms and lubricant. Students also had the chance to get tested for HIV.

The Department of Public Health offered a saliva antibody test called OraSure, which does not require blood.

Lindley said testing took about five minutes, with a counseling session taking up most of the time. Students were asked if they thought they are in a high risk group and why they wanted to get tested.

Thirty-four students were tested. Results of the tests will be available next week, she said.

Lindley said students, faculty and staff from Health Services and Public Health received training to perform the tests.

Later in the day, the exhibition moved to Media Hall auditorium for the showing of “Pandemic.” The two-hour documentary tells the stories of people from five different countries who are infected with AIDS.

“This year we were concentrating of the global aspect of AIDS,” said Molly Kerby, university college instructor.

Kerby represents the women’s studies program on the World AIDS Day committee, which came together for the first time in September 2002 and is the leading organizer for World AIDS Day.

Kerby said an idea has been discussed in the committee for a STD and HIV support group, but nothing specific has been worked out yet.

The film was followed by the memorial service, led by Pastor Heather McCulloch from Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church. The service ended with a candlelight vigil at Guthrie Tower.

Kerby said they had hoped for more than the 30 people who showed up for the vigil, but McCulloch said that any occasion for people to come together about the subject is a “great thing.”

HIV testing is available at the Health Center in the Academic Complex for $25. Test results are available within two to three days.

Reach Marlene Brueggemann at [email protected]