Facing AIDS

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The Spectrum

On Wednesday, condom-shaped balloons floated around the Student Union, but not for the purpose of making students laugh.

Every 16 seconds, someone dies from AIDS, and SBI Health and Education Services participated in World AIDS Day to help students become more aware of this deadly disease and its effects.

"This year, the theme was ‘Facing AIDS,'" said Courtney Bauer, assistant supervising counselor at SBI Health Education. "We offered free testing, condoms, and information to the students who came by."

A popular attraction at the event was the personalized helium-filled condom balloons. Another appeal was SBI's free rapid STD testing, which is also available by appointment at Michael Hall.

"There are a couple of different options [when it comes to getting] tested for HIV," Bauer said. "What we did today was the rapid testing. It takes only 20 minutes. They just prick your finger and test the blood to see if you have HIV."

Those who got tested also had the option of meeting with trained health counselors in confidential rooms.

AIDS is still a major issue around the world, claiming more than 2 million lives yearly. Most of the people who are affected by HIV/AIDS are in South Africa and do not have access to the necessary equipment to get proper treatment.

However, HIV/AIDS may also be a concern for sexually active college students, who frequently have many misconceptions about the disease.

"We don't force people into sexual knowledge unless they want it, but it's important to spread the word among college students who are [likely to be engaging] in sexual activities," Bauer said.

According to Shannon Gawel, a junior media studies major and event coordinator for SBI, SBI Health and Education Services wanted to give people accurate information about AIDS and engage students in an open discussion.

"You don't have to be afraid to talk about it," Gawel said. "AIDS is a global issue and the more information we can spread about it, the better."

SBI Health Education hopes to hold another event similar to this in April, during STI awareness month. The office is located at Hayes Annex C on South Campus or can be contacted at 829-2584 for additional information.

E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com