Fraternity brings AIDS awareness to campus

Covered in balloons and lines of tables, the quad became a space to educate students on the impact of HIV and AIDS in their community.

Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity, hosted their 18th annual Multicultural AIDS Awareness Day (MAAD) last Thursday and encouraged students to get tested.

The fraternity started planning the event toward the end of last year, according to MAAD Chair Kelly Duong. In previous years, the MAAD event hosted workshops for students to learn about safe sex, how to cope with HIV and AIDS and resources for someone to go to.

Duong said that she hopes students will take advantage of the fact that the testing is free and conveniently located at the Student Health Center.

“There’s this stigma that if you get tested, people think you will have AIDS,” said Duong. “It doesn’t matter if you have AIDS, as long as you go out and get yourself tested.”

About 60 students came to the health center for free HIV testing, which was hosted by an organization called Asian Pacific Islander Wellness, according to health educator Aimee Williams.

Since the epidemic began in 1981, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV and more than 600,000 have died of AIDS-related causes, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The report also mentioned that 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS, 18 percent which are undiagnosed.

Kevin Piguing, an acoustic performer, said during the event that when he recently found out one of his friends had contracted HIV, the issue became more personal to him. He mentioned that learning about the epidemic helped him to realize that education is the first step anyone should take in prevention.

“Prevalence of HIV and AIDS is still high,” said Piguing. “As more people become more open about their sexuality, we have to make sure that they have every right and opportunity to have access to the resources around them.”

MAAD also encouraged students to support the cause by purchasing and wearing red ribbons and bracelets that said “Embrace Life.” The proceeds will go to the Westwood Scholarship, providing school funding for students who are living with or have been affected by HIV or AIDS.