HIV/AIDS stigmas and myths debunked at awareness event

Amira Abdulkadir
Staff Writer

On April 12, Rachel Uwimbabazi and Shreya Koirala hosted an HIV awareness event on campus. Koirala and Uwimbabazi are the National Youth HIV Awareness Event Day (NYHAAD) Ambassadors for MNSU. They are also members of Eta Sigma Gamma (National Health Honor Society). They hosted this event because they were chosen at this year’s national youth ambassador for HIV/AIDS awareness day which held every April 10th. They decided to host this event to raise awareness of HIV among college students.

The event started from 5 p.m. in the evening and went up to 6:45 p.m. More than 39 participants attended the event. Dr. Mary Kramer and Dr. Dawn Larsen, professors from the health science department, from were in attendance, too.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, even today. A lot of people do not know about prevention and treatment measures that should be followed. The event was aimed at addressing some of those issues. Guests from Rural AIDS Action Network (RAAN) were in attendance.

Julia Stumpf from the Youth and AIDS Project (YAP) was the guest speaker for the project. Stumpf is a medical case manager and a PREP navigator. YAP works with young people from the age of 13-30 years. Stumpf started her presentation with a few questions that she asked the audience. After each answer, she would add further information for the students. Some of the questions she asked were what drugs HIV-positive people take, the difference between HIV and AIDS, etc.

Stumpf talked about how initially HIV/AIDS was deemed as a death sentence and many who contracted it rarely survived it. But with research and new medications, people who are HIV-positive can live and be healthy.

The HIV pill has three medicines in one, so it prevents the virus from entering, from replicating and from releasing Rachel Uwimbabazi in the body. She talked about ways in which HIV can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and injecting drugs. HIV however is not transmitted through ways like kissing, hugging, or any contact that does not involve direct contact with infected blood. The speaker also touched on some factors that influence the possibility of getting HIV, like race, as it is predominantly among African American in the United States.

Another stigma against HIV is that it makes it hard for people to seek healthcare providers. She talked about antiviral drugs, which HIV/AIDS patients take to reduce the viral load in their bodies, or otherwise to keep the CD4 cells in check. Stumpf also talked about PREP, which is the drug that people who are high risk of getting HIV take to protect themselves. This could be people who have partners with the virus, people who sleep with multiple people, etc. The drugs can be prescribed at any healthcare place if enough reason is give and it is effective to some degree.

The event started out by playing Kahoot with the participants and then progressed towards the lecture by our guest speaker. Refreshments and small gifts to the participants were provided thanks to RSO funding.

“The event was successful,” said Uwimbabazi.

Photo: (David Bassey/MSU Reporter)

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