Honoring World AIDS Day, on Saturday, Hopkins’s AIDS Alliance hosted an HIV/AIDS Night of Remembrance last Friday in the Charles Commons Ballroom.
To organize the event, AIDS Alliance partnered with two other clubs, Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance (DSAGA) and the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW).
Throughout the night, attendees could pick up free refreshments, condoms and candy.
Collection bins were also set up to encourage donations to Moveable Feast, an organization that provides meals and nutritional counseling to homebound people living with HIV/AIDS. The event raised about $300.
“HIV/AIDS is a major public health problem, especially in Baltimore City, but one that is often overlooked on the Homewood campus. We planned the event with the purpose of trying to make students realize that HIV affects so many of our neighbors in a major way, and that all of us are in a position to make a major impact within the community. We hoped that by the end of the night, students would feel empowered to enact change within Baltimore, especially in regards to helping to fight against HIV/AIDS,” senior Jessica Oidtman, President of AIDS Alliance, said.
The event began with an introduction by Oidtman, followed by speeches by guest speakers Abby Neyenhouse from the Hopkins Center for Social Concern and Jamal H. N. Hailey from the STAR TRACK Adolescent HIV Program at the University of Maryland.
Between speakers different student dance groups performed, including JOSH, VIVAZ and the Eclectics.
The event concluded with a candlelight vigil on Keyser Quadrangle.
Hailey stressed the importance of getting tested, being aware of your partner’s sexual history, and supporting others suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“At STAR TRACK, we did one campaign where people with HIV spoke to others about their experience, which showed how anyone could get HIV,” Hailey said. “A lot of college students feel they’re in a safe college bubble, and that since they are only with other college students also in the bubble, they don’t have to worry about HIV/AIDS. But we had one college student speaker who had contracted HIV his freshman year.”
An unplanned speaker, Whitney Burton, another STAR TRACK representative, elaborated on Hailey’s assertion that the first step to eradicating HIV/AIDS is to eliminate the stigma surrounding it.
“You need to be the generation to stop HIV/AIDS. Not now, but in the next 10–15 years. Whatever you become later on in life, something in public health, a doctor, a florist, don’t give shame to people with HIV. We can now stop transmission from mothers to children and decrease the chance of transmission between partners, but not if people aren’t open and if there keeps being shame surrounding the issue. The stigma is the issue,” Burton said.
Though this was AIDS Alliance’s sixth year hosting an event in honor of World AIDS Day, the Night of Remembrance was a change from the usual banquet.
Club members decided to focus on bringing in guest speakers and providing information about sexual health because they thought that their message was often lost in the festivities of a dinner.
Overall, Oidtman found these changes effective.
“The greatest success of the night was seeing all of the thoughts that Hopkins’s students had about how and why they want to join in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is very powerful to see a group of students and community members who are so dedicated to such an important cause,” Oidtman said.