The numbers are simply daunting. Worldwide, 40.3 million people live with HIV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 1.2 million people in America were living with either HIV or AIDS as of 2005. Of this number, roughly a quarter were undiagnosed and unaware of their positive status.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, an estimated 17,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the state of Michigan as of October 2007. Of these, about 600 live in Washtenaw County, with 30 new cases of HIV and 15 cases of AIDS diagnosed just last year. Do I need to continue?
For a disease this devastating and an epidemic this widespread, surely one would expect some student groups to campaign against this disease. And there are such groups. This week is World AIDS Week, and around the Diag as well as in Angell Hall and the Chemistry Building, there are many fliers posted by groups hoping to raise awareness about the disease and promote activism both on and off campus. But these fliers can’t do much if students aren’t actually paying close attention. Before this week is over, students should make sure to take some time to contribute in the battle against HIV/AIDS and make sure they understand the nature of the disease. There are a lot of existing resources to help.
One of the most prominent groups on campus is Face AIDS, whose University chapter was founded last year. Face AIDS has planned all sorts of events, including a breakfast sale at the posting wall in Angell Hall on Monday and Thursday, a movie screening and bar night at The Necto on Tuesday and finally a dinner with a guest speaker on Saturday in East Hall.
Perhaps most important of all, the group is selling beaded pins that were handmade by an AIDS patient in the Partners in Health clinic in Rwanda. While these pins only cost $5 to you, when this money is put together with a corresponding donation of $15 from various companies, this inexpensive pin buys about two months’ worth of medicine for the patient who made it. Last year, the University’s chapter of Face AIDS raised about $13,000 and was one of the top contributors nationally.
For those more motivated to help out locally in Washtenaw County, a class is being offered next semester that provides a great opportunity to become involved. The class is section 203 of Sociology 389, a part of Project Community, in which students volunteer at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Ypsilanti.
There are a host of students who have volunteered at HARC through Project Community and had very rewarding experiences. Erin Schlemmer, who took this section of the course last year, said “(Working at the center) is very eye-opening about how uninformed people are, and how they can protect themselves, and even what HIV is.” Eden Brand, who has volunteered at the center for all four of her undergraduate years at the University, said: “HARC is a great way for students wanting to get more involved outside the campus. HARC is here for Washtenaw County.”
These groups and opportunities barely scratch the surface of what is available. There are HIV/AIDS projects in various other groups around campus and in the community. During this week, you will find information on HIV/AIDS wherever you go, and you should seek it. Don’t think you can’t contribute or that HIV/AIDS is just a distant problem that affects people somewhere else.
The University is a large place with a huge student body. If everyone contributes in some way and is knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS, our voices will be heard loud and clear. Together we can all do something in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Whether it’s here in Ann Arbor or abroad in Rwanda, we can make that happen.
Albert Chow is an LSA senior.