HIV/AIDS Awareness Event Presents Truth and Promotes Testing

IMG_0264 By Eleni Parashos

College of Southern Nevada’s African American Heritage Committee hosted an HIV and AIDS awareness event on Wednesday, Feb. 12 as part of Black History Month.

“This disease is a global epidemic,” said Kimiko Walton, CSN recruitment coordinator and co-chair of the African American Heritage Committee. “College students should understand that they are not immune.”

The event included a mini-awareness fair guided by Jenny Gratzke, a disease investigator and intervention specialist for the Southern Nevada Health District. Gratzke’s presentation highlighted the staggering statistic that Walton says was the driving force behind Wednesday’s event.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans—although responsible for only 12 percent of the U.S. population—make up 44 percent of all new HIV infections.

Gratzke speaks to schools and other organizations throughout the county on the topic of HIV, AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases. She says the key to a negative HIV test result is prevention beyond the use of physical contraceptives such as male or female condoms.

“The most valuable tool is communication with your partner,” Gratzke said. “Don’t be afraid to have frank discussions about your sexual history.”

Jenny Gratzke

Jenny Gratzke

Sinovia Brown, a representative from the Blue Interest Group and CSN’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority, asked the attendees to consider their own sexual histories with the interactive presentation “How Crowded is Your Bed?”. During the presentation Brown used a flow chart that connected a monogamous couple with their past sexual partners to demonstrate the underlining danger of exposure.

“I learned that you don’t just sleep with one person,” said Tiffany Moreno, CSN student and attendee of Wednesday’s event. “Like the flow chart, you sleep with everyone that was connected to them too.”

IMG_0273 in text

During both presentations attendees asked questions that circled around a central theme: the social implications and stigmas surrounding HIV. Some of the questions raised by audience members focused on how people with HIV deal with daily life, date, have children and go on vacation.

Gratzke was quick to distinguish HIV fact from fiction. “At the end of the day, people are just people,” Gratzke said.

Beyond the alarming facts and staggering statistics provided by the HIV and AIDS awareness event, both speakers emphasized what was perhaps the event’s most apparent goal for its audience: get tested and get tested often.

“Our goal is to educate, inform and maintain awareness,” Walton said. “The more we can do to educate [students] on how to be safe and how to get tested regularly, the more lives we can help save.”

For more information on HIV and AIDS or to find a testing facility in Southern Nevada, visit http://www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/.

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