"Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise"

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The Spectrum

Every minute, 161 people around the world die from AIDS, according to the United States Agency for International Development. What's worse is that there is no cure.

World AIDS Day will be celebrated Wednesday in the Student Union. Created in 1988 by the World Health Organization, the event is meant to raise awareness, tackle prejudices and stop the spread of HIV.

The campaign boasts a "light for right" campaign this year, meant to represent universal access to human rights.

"Our event is UB's version of the international event. It reminds all of HIV prevention and care for those who have been infected," said Jane E. Fischer, director of SBI Health Education. "It reminds us to continue to look for a cure."

Despite much improvement in technology and healthcare, AIDS still claims over two million lives every year around the world, and over half are young children. Unfortunately, many people do not have access to proper healthcare due to the economic conditions of their countries.

According to the Joint United Nations Programs on HIV/AIDS, the incidence of HIV has fallen by over 20 percent over the last 10 years. About 56 countries have stabilized the rate of new HIV infections. Although this number might be promising, there is a still lot of work to be done.

"Every 30 minutes someone dies of AIDS," said Ashley Dixon-Rolston, assistant supervisor of SBI. "It is very important for people to get tested."

Over 41 million people currently live with HIV all over the world. Approximately one million Americans live with HIV; however, one fifth are unaware that they carry the disease. Therefore, it is very important for sexually active students to be tested.

"It is serious. In some places of the world, one out of two people are infected with HIV. It is a real viral infection," Fischer said. "You don't know who is infected, so you have to take preventative measures."

The campaign encourages participants to print their own photos and write messages telling the world why they want to fight the AIDS epidemic. Participants are also encouraged to upload their pledge to social network sites like Facebook and Twitter to help promote awareness on Wednesday.

SBI and Health and Wellness offer free condoms because many studies have shown that college students are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors. Additionally, other factors play a role in the potential spreading of HIV.

"Just because of biology, there are different risk factors – for example, same-sex partners. There are purely biological factors," Fischer said. "We want to make sure that everyone has the ability to protect themselves."

SBI encourages students to be tested. Free testing will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. in the SU in an enclosed, private space. Students will be able to get the result in 20 minutes and will be able to meet with trained health counselors in a confidential room.

The test is also available at Michael Hall by appointment. Panel testing is also available throughout the year. The test costs $10 and checks for other sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. For students who suspect an infection or need immediate results, Michael Hall also offers rapid tests.

Students are protected under HIPAA privacy laws.

"It is totally confidential. I take those laws seriously and I make sure that everyone that works for me does," Fischer said.

Fischer explained that although many students do choose to get tested, there is a stigma that prevents others from doing so. However, early detection is very important in terms of treatment.

"In case someone is tested positive, the earlier you get treated, the longer your quality of life and life span," Fischer said.

E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com