The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Student activists prepare for World AIDS Day

About 40 million people world-wide are living with HIV. In Guilford County alone 1,500 people are living with HIV according to the Triad Health Project. Infection rates are increasing in every region of the world. Because of these statistics, the Dec. 1 World AIDS Day was established to raise awareness and educate people about this preventable disease.

Celebrity-endorsed concerts, student-led demonstrations, and other charity events will take place around the world. Events are being launched on every level: continents, countries, states, and communities. Guilford College will join in this global and local effort.

The Community AIDS Awareness Project group (CAP) honored World AIDS Day the entire week leading up to Dec. 1. Their theme this year, “Open Your Eyes to AIDS,” will culminate with their final demonstration today. Student volunteers will be led around campus blind-folded, escorted by partners all day.

At 6:00 p.m. in front of Founders Hall, the blindfolds will be ceremonially removed. Participants will read testimonies and names of people who have died from. AIDS. The testimonies will be followed by a candle-light vigil.

“AIDS is a part of our world and we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about it,” said first-year CAP member Atreese Watkins.

Earlier this week CAP had a number of themed events taking place across campus. Monday’s theme was “Personal.” CAP volunteers and other students created a “Promise Chain.” People demonstrated their personal commitment to AIDS awareness and prevention by stringing together red paper links with the names of students who made them.

Tuesday’s theme of “Community” was expressed through an open-mic night and bake sale at the student-run Greenleaf coffee house.

The open-mic gathered poets and musicians. Martha Assefa, a CAP member and sophomore from Kenya, read a monologue from a play about a formally uneducated Kenyan woman who wanted to be a poet.

“AIDS is just something that infuriates me,” said Assefa. “I’m infuriated because I’m from Kenya where 700 people die a day (from AIDS) and medical companies don’t help their fellow people (get medicine). It’s nice to see things like these photos and events that show people care and are trying to make a difference.”

On Wednesday, CAP held a pajama-party style viewing of the movie Rent in the Queer and Allied Resource Center (QuARC). Food and discussion of the effect of AIDS in the country tied to the day’s theme, “United States”.

“International” was Thursday’s theme, which was observed with the viewing of the movie Yesterday, the story of an African woman living with HIV who struggles to live long enough to send her only daughter to school.

In between these events CAP members and volunteers distributed condoms, sold CAP logo beanie hats for charity, and gave out red ribbons. On Monday, many students opened their campus mailboxes to find a ribbon and a schedule of events. Only half received a ribbon, representing the fraction of college-aged students who have HIV/AIDS.

The symbolic red ribbons were created in 1991 by the New York based Visual AIDS organization. The ribbon is worn as a sign of solidarity for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Lastly, CAP presented the “Open Yours Eyes to AIDS” photograph display in front of Founders. On Tuesday morning bushes leading to the main door and tree trunks around campus were strewn with over 118 photographs of Guilford students, hands palm up covering their eyes.

“I think it’s important that students know what’s going on,” said Martha Orhai, first-year CAP member.

“Our age group is at the highest risk, but we’ve grown up with this idea that we’re at the least risk because we know what a STD is. (AIDS) doesn’t need to be another fact of life.”

After the campus-wide observance, CAP co-founder, senior Erin Burns left today for Washington D.C. to participate in the World AIDS Day march. Also in D.C. will be numerous other demonstrations and a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt, now with 40,000 panels, was created in1987 as a memorial to those who died from AIDS.

While not everyone can go to Washington, Burns urges students to get involved with World AIDS Day and other CAP activities:

“Find out how we can change the current statistics in our own lives and what our government is doing,” said Burns.

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