Campus clubs spread awareness about AIDS
This week marks the second annual HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign on campus. Spearheaded by BACCHUS, the campaign was a joint venture between Future of Africa, Association of Black Students, the Social Justice Council, The Rainbow Centre and The AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo Area (ACCKWA).
For three days, from November 28-30, these organizations banded together to spread awareness and a general message of hope, while simultaneously educating the Laurier community about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“All the groups are coming together to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS … an epidemic that’s all over the world … Just because people live in Kitchener-Waterloo you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it … It’s something that happens everywhere and people have to realize that,” said Janelle Emanuel, BACCHUS co-ordinator.
Beginning with an “HIV 101” workshop on Nov. 28th, Jody Benninger, community education coordinator for ACCKWA, taught students about the basic facts surrounding the transmission of HIV/AIDS as well as providing an in-depth overview of various preventative tactics. Maintaining an open discussion throughout the presentation, Benninger encouraged students to speak about the stigma surrounding the disease in order to dispel any common myths or misconceptions.
“Our bigger goal is to prevent new HIV infections while developing a compassion for those that are already infected,” said Benninger.
Continuing on Nov. 29th, two speakers from ACCKWA returned to campus after sharing their stories for an inspired audience during last year’s campaign.
“They’re a [married] couple that’s living with HIV/AIDS,” said Emanuel. “The woman, I think her [ex] husband gave her AIDS. He had been cheating on her and came out of the closet one day, and was like this who I am, this is what I have and now you have to deal with it.”
However, despite the incurable nature of the disease, their message was one of hope and compassion. “It’s a real love story and testament to the resilience a lot of our clients face,” added Benninger.
To reach an even broader audience, the campaign culminates with all of the participating groups setting up informational booths in the Concourse on Nov.30th. With the intention of instigating conversation surrounding this often-marginalized topic, Emanuel hopes to, “Let people kind of open up out of their Laurier bubble. You only think that things impact you that are on campus, but there are so many things that are outside, in the outside world that can have an impact on you as well.”
While maintaining a global perspective about the epidemic, Future of Africa encouraged students to think both globally and locally by enacting their own mini-campaign to fundraise for The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s initiative to combat sexual violence and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
To commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1st, Sandra Ata, co-president of Future of Africa Laurier, ultimately hopes that the campaign has helped Laurier students to, “Notice that it’s [HIV/AIDS] not just happening in Africa, it’s also happening in North America.”
“Our goal really is to raise awareness and to have people a little bit more educated about the cause and to make them want to do something about it,” she concluded.