The Service event I attended this semester was the AIDS memorial Quilt Service, located in the Ohio State Union on Friday, April 12th. I was present from 1pm-4pm. The event was multi-faceted; its main focus was to show respect for those who have passed from AIDS related illness, but it also brought awareness to AIDS and SDES’ goal was to use the event to educate those about HIV/AIDs.
I was asked to sit in the quilt room and watch to make sure people were being respectful of the space; ie no food or drink in the room, no touching the quilt, etc. I also manned one of the welcome tables and instructed people where certain events and speakers were located.
There are still many common misconceptions about AIDS, one being that only gay men are affected. There is a large stigma around HIV/AIDS because of this, and lead many people to look down upon those who are affected by the disease.
Gay men make up only 18% of people infected with HIV. Another 18% is clients of sex workers, 1% trans women, 8% people who inject drugs, 3% sex workers, and 52% is the rest of the population. Further on the contrary, women are more so at risk of infection than men are. (statistics from avert.org)
There is also stigma surrounding STD’s in general, one that leads many individuals to not get tested, in fear of a positive result. Many STI’s can be carried without symptoms, and these can be passed to partners which cause life altering conditions, such as infertility. The Ohio Union offers free testing through the multicultural center, and the Student Wellness Center located in the RPAC also offers free HIV and STD testing. There are also many free options around Columbus for those who wish to be tested off campus, such as Out of The Closet, located on 5th and High.
Events such as this quilt memorial are important to help spread awareness of sexual health issues. We are lucky to live in communities where certain methods of STI prevention, such as condoms, are readily available at little to no cost. The spreading of HIV can be stopped, and with added preventions such as prescription PREP, an anti HIV drug, you can significantly reduce your risk of being infected by or transmitting HIV.
Globally, Eastern and Southern Africa are the most afflicted, with 19.6 million (as of 2017) reported living with HIV. Of the total number of people affected globally, only 25% know their status. There are great strides we need to take to improve education and access to sexual health resources in the areas of the world that are endemic, and lack access to the knowledge and resources they need to keep themselves, their partners, and their children healthy and HIV/AIDS free. Condom usage can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV by 99.6%, and are a relatively cheap option of doing so. Education about proper usage, and access to condoms in these endemic areas could greatly reduce the incidence of HIV. Retroviral drugs could be used to help those already infected from developing AIDs, and spreading the virus further.