HIV/AIDS Awareness on Campus

Fatalism. Existentialism. The writings of Voltaire. These are a few examples of subjects that college students come across and the collegiate school system has deemed important and necessary for one's education.

These are pressing topics, but our society often overlooks the vital issues that need to be addressed.

According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, there were more than 48,000 cumulative AIDS cases in Los Angeles County in 2003. In addition, more than 28,000 people died in that year alone from this disease.

Up until the spring of 2004, Santa Monica College's Health Services building offered free HIV testing two days a week from an organization known as Common Ground. This free testing ended because Common Ground lost its funding and therefore was no longer able to provide the free services on campus.

According to Gloria M. Lopez, a professor of nursing and Health Services coordinator, "Many of us refuse to accept the responsibility that we are at risk."

Doesn't it seem odd that when I look around campus I am overwhelmed with signs for cheerleading try-outs and the all too familiar "Army of One" poster advertisements? It may appear that our society has chosen to act as though this disease, as well as many others, do not exist. We pretend as if these diseases are an unwanted pimple that we hide with Neutrogena concealer or a Band-aid.

There is so much emphasis on prevention and awareness within the AIDS organizational community, but it can only be prevented once it is brought to the forefront of the globe's current issues.

The AIDS movement appears to have been forced into the background of the chaotic picture that is our world today.

The reality is that in 2003 it was reported that 40 million people were living with AIDS throughout the world, and nearly 140,000 of them were in the state of California alone. Lopez confirms that many young people are either misinformed or too embarrassed to look for the help that they so desperately need.

Cammy Hebert, an 18-year-old Santa Monica College student, said, "I don't even know where the Health Service building is on campus." Shouldn't this be one of the first pieces of information that a student receives once they enroll into classes?

How can we expect people to be knowledgeable about these topics when the information isn't even being given to students?

Furthermore, it is important to point out that these AIDS cases are not designated to a single sex or group of individuals.

HIV and AIDS affect the entire population. Lopez agrees that we have to educate one another. She said, "If one is lacking then we all suffer."

The most common misconception about HIV and AIDS is that it is only contracted through male-to-male sexual contact or intravenous drug use.

In the United States in 2003 there were more than 85,000 reported adult and adolescent female AIDS cases which were contracted through heterosexual contact.

The idea or fantasy that young people are safe simply because they are young needs to be smashed and replaced with awareness and responsibility.

Yet, this does not mean that there is no hope. On Feb. 28, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the organization Common Ground will be testing for HIV in the Health Services building. In addition, a Health Fair will be held on campus on March 29 and it will include HIV awareness information as well as speakers who are in the process of fighting this powerful disease.

Finally, anybody can find countless amounts of information regarding off-campus HIV testing in the Health Services building, which is on the east wing of the cafeteria.