To celebrate this year’s World AIDS Day, the Rho Omega Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Sigma Chapter of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. and Sigma Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. hosted an awareness event on Dec. 1.
The event honored those who have lost their lives in the fight against HIV/AIDS and those who are afflicted by the disease. Additionally, speakers at the event discussed the symptoms and causes of the disease as well as methods to prevent contraction. Along with a presentation by keynote speaker and Professor of Biology Trina Schroer, attendees received free safe-sex goodie bags and grab-and-go dinners.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Schroer, who teaches a course titled AIDS (AS.020.347), explained that she was drawn to the subject because her best friend died of AIDS. Schroer spoke about the importance of highlighting the dangers that the disease still presents in her interview.
“AIDS has become a manageable disease,” she said. “People can manage their symptoms by taking medication every day, so a lot of people have forgotten that it’s a very deadly disease that continues to infect and kill people.”
She added that current Hopkins students were born after the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and might be complacent about the dangers of the disease. She believes it is important to remind people that the disease is still pervasive and that there is currently no vaccine or cure.
Senior Danae Baxter, the organizer of the event and president of the Hopkins chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, shared the origin and significance of the event in an interview with The News-Letter.
“Another member of our chapter who has now graduated started this event in 2015,” she said. “She is part of the LGBTQ+ community, so this topic meant a lot to her. On top of that, all of the organizations involved with the event have initiatives that are aligned with helping in the fight against AIDS, so it is a great opportunity for us to... bring more information to campus and destigmatize [sexually transmitted infections] (STI) and HIV testing.”
While many people who attended the event had personal stories regarding AIDS, some, like sophomore Zyan Baptiste, attended to learn more about the disease.
“I came to this event because I think the concept of raising awareness is very important, and I’m always looking to further educate myself,” he said in an interview with The News-Letter. “With a disease like this, the more you know, the easier it is to combat it. AIDS in particular has lifelong effects, so knowing more about it is always beneficial and can help prevent you from dealing with its dangers. Also, even if it doesn’t affect me directly, I can always use the information to help keep others informed.”
Sophomore Autumn Johnson told The News-Letter that she decided to attend the event to learn more about how to raise awareness about the disease herself.
“The disease is still kind of common, and as we learned in the presentation, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when you have it,” she said. “It’s important that we raise awareness so that people can know when they have it before it’s too late by getting tested and reducing the stigma around that.”
Johnson hopes that raising awareness will equip people with that proper resources to minimize the spread of the disease.