By Yaasmeen Piper
For the first time, Student Engagement partnered with Wellness Education and Prevention, Office of Multicultural Affairs and PRIDE to bring awareness of World Aids Day on Dec. 1.
Throughout the day, Novus ACS, a medical center located in Bethlehem, Pa., provided free and confidential STD and STI testing in the Commuter Lounge.
Peer educators from the Wellness, Education and Prevention office dressed as “condom fairies” with glittery wings and handed out pamphlets and, of course, condoms in the University Center.
“The main reason why we wanted to have such a fun event is because we want to break the stigma of people being scared to go and get tested,” said Laura Suits, coordinator of Wellness Education and Prevention. “It’s so important to know what your status is.”
Since 1988, World AIDs Day has been dedicated to raise awareness surrounding HIV and AIDs.
Though the disease is considered rare with fewer than 200,000 cases per year according to Mayo Clinic, one in five college students are affected by STD or STI.
Only half of those students know that they have the disease.
“A lot of STI and STD’s are asymptomatic,” Suits said, “so you don’t know the signs and symptoms of them. That would cause them to then spread the disease when they don’t even know that they have one.”
Gay and bisexual men accounted for 81 percent of diagnoses for youth, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“At the time the first AIDs crisis happened, nobody really cared,” said Shannon Thomas, secretary of PRIDE. “It wasn’t reported in newspapers. It was something that was kept in the dark because it was so stigmatized, even by people who are gay.”
According to Thomas, sexual education today is more broad now than ever. “It’s being coming more of a thing for gay men to wear condoms and to have safer sex. It’s getting better but I think we still have a lot of issues.”
Aside from changing the stigma behind getting tested, Fernando Alcantar, the director of Student Engagement, wants to boost sex positivity.
“[Sex] isn’t something you should only have to talk about in secret. You can be safe, you can be reasonable,” he said.
Around 8 p.m. students swarmed the University Center for the Kalahari Suitcase Challenge.
About 20 students teamed up for a chance to win an overnight stay and entry to one of America’s largest water parks.
“Hopefully something like this will help remove the stigma [around STD/STI testing] or being around someone who is HIV positive or has AIDS,” Alcantar said.
“[You] should not let what [other] people think about being safe or being sure, get in the way of actually being safe and being sure.”
STI and STD testing is available at the campus health center, Pocono Medical and NovusACS located 1565 Linden St, Bethlehem, Pa.
For more information on World AIDS Day visit www.worldaidsday.org.
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