By Wendy Plager, Student Services Specialist, Health Careers Center, University of Minnesota
Every December 1st, in an observation called "World AIDS Day," people around the world participate in education and advocacy efforts towards the fight against AIDS and HIV infections.
World AIDS Day is here and now is the time for pre-health students to start planning events on campus to raise awareness about this challenging disease. From 2011 - 2015, the theme for World AIDS Day has been "Getting to Zero" with the goal of: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.
HIV/AIDS: How Many Have It?
Some people may feel that HIV does not affect them; however, this is not always the case. Roughly 35 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV, with over 1.2 million people in the United States (1). Of those infected in the U.S., almost 1 in 5 is not aware of their positive status - in other words, they do not know they have HIV infections (2). This puts them at a higher risk of infecting others and not getting the treatment they need to live a long life. This statistic supports the needs for HIV prevention techniques to prevent transmission. As HIV/AIDS cases and infections are more prevalent in other countries, the disease spread continues to require major public health intervention with teaching around sexual practices and testing surveillance to prevent the spread of the virus to unsuspecting individuals. These interventions will help improve survival rates throughout the world.
How Students Can Get Involved Now and in the Future
Getting involved in campaigns like World AIDS Day is a great way for students to learn about the world around them, help solve problems, and demonstrate their leadership skills.
Here are some ideas of how your students can get involved with World AIDS Day now or in the future:
1. Movie Screening*: Show a movie and follow it with a discussion, hosted by health care providers or nonprofits who work with AIDS patients. For example, movies such as, "How to Survive a Plague" or "We Were Here" could be great choices. (*Make sure to gain the proper permission rights to show any film. For information on screening "How to Survive a Plague", email firstname.lastname@example.org. To screen "We Were Here," go to this site: http://wewereherefilm.com/distribution-contacts/.)
2. Fundraiser: Host a fundraiser. Sell red ribbons to raise money for a local AIDS/HIV support program or HIV testing facility in your community.
3. Information Booth: Set up a booth on campus to share facts about AIDS/HIV, discuss sexual health, and provide education on prevention of the disease. Consider passing out free condoms, if it is supported by your institution.
4. Write-a-Thon: Have a "Write-a-Thon" to encourage students to write letters to the government or media, sharing why funding AIDS related causes is important to them.
5. Create Artwork: Create your own campus HIV/AIDS quilt or other form of art. Have the art displayed in the student center or other visible areas on campus during the month of December.
Even with our advances in scientific interventions with therapeutics and a recent possible vaccine breakthrough (3), continued research and approval will take time for drug development. Continued educational efforts in raising HIV/AIDS awareness are needed to reduce the spread of this virus. The fight is not over. Not yet!
Images: World AIDS Day Media Kit; Clip Art