On an illuminated stage in the auditorium of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the stories of people affected by HIV were presented in forms ranging from dances and slam poetry to statistics and HIV testing site information at the annual HIV Monologues presented by the University of Michigan’s chapters of National Council of Negro Women and the Black Student Union this weekend.
LSA senior Margarett McBride, president of the council, said the event aimed to increase awareness about HIV.
“There was a lot of talk about HIV in the past when Magic Johnson came out having it, but since then, it is not as big of a topic,” McBride said. “We want to start conversations about what to do when your partner has HIV, and how to talk about being safe.”
LSA junior Taylor Moore said she came to the event in part because she is currently taking a class on HIV and AIDS through the American Culture Department.
“I knew most of the information presented here, but I came because I still believe in the message,” she said. “A lot of people don’t view HIV as a problem in the United States, and I believe that is due to the lack of education, especially in the Black community.”
As presented at the event, Black people make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet 45 percent of HIV diagnoses are within the Black community. HIV disproportionately affects Black women compared with women of other races, as 60 percent of HIV-positive women in 2013 were Black.
Speakers also discussed the stigma behind HIV diagnoses throughout the event. Interactive activities testing the audience's knowledge about risky and non-risky behavior dispelled common HIV myths. These myths, such as the belief that a person can contract HIV through shaking hands or sharing food, lead to the ostracization of people who test positive.
The event also touched on being able to share “HIV status,” providing phrase suggestions on how to respond to a partner who has disclosed an HIV-positive test, or how to disclose a diagnosis with a partner or loved ones.
“We want to make this a more normal thing for people to talk about with their partners,” McBride said.
LSA senior Ledea Bond said the event held significant educational value outside of the classroom.
“I’m really glad I came out today; I actually learned some new information and I just think it’s important to hear this even if it’s something you know,” Bond said. “It was entertaining, informative and (had) really good energy. I really enjoyed it.”
LSA junior Lauren Edmonds noted she appreciated how the event draws attention to a topic not often discussed.
“These events bring awareness to topics that people don’t want to talk about. There are many people who don’t want to talk about STDs, especially HIV/AIDS, just because it has such as stigma,” she said. “I think it’s good that two organizations such as BSU and NCNW, who are so important in our community, put on this event, because it brings it to the forefront for all of us. All of us are at that point in our lives where, it’s time to make good decisions.”
Moore added, “I just think it’s important for them to put this on and to let people know it is something you can live with and it is something worth fighting for.”