Whether on the College campus, in the United States, or in countries around the globe, AIDS affects everyone.
The multicultural poetry slam, sponsored by PRISM, was held on the opening night of AIDS Awareness Week last Monday. It brought creativity and a fresh outlook to this problem through student-written poems and discussions.
The motivation for the event, as well as the entire week, according to Angel Hernandez, AIDS Awareness Week chair, is “for us to get together and see how AIDS affects us all.”
“Two of my family members are HIV positive,” Hernandez said. “Ever since I found out, I’ve felt the need to educate people, and this week is the perfect opportunity.”
Over doughnuts and coffee, students who came out for this informative experience were able to place themselves in scenarios involving living with AIDS.
Some students shared poetry written in the first moments of new experiences that embraced fear, but showed hope.
Other students who had been exposed firsthand to AIDS and HIV shared their experiences with the group.
Hernandez said that his mother and stepfather are living with the HIV virus and have been since he was 12 years old.
“I was 12 and it was not easy,” he said. “(My mom would) take medication in the morning and then she’d have to run over to the sink to throw it up.”
Living with someone that has HIV has been trying for Hernandez and he said that it forced him to grow up quickly.
He told the group that he plans to take management classes to become a manager of CVS, where he currently works, so that he can take care of his nine-year-old sister if his mother and stepfather pass away.
“Most people my age don’t have that kind of plan,” he said.
Noel Ramirez, president of PRISM, shared his experience with taking care of a man that was living with the AIDS virus for 10 years.
He explained that he was there when the man he took care of was “puking his guts out” and had “large lesions,” all symptoms of the AIDS virus.
“At that point, who can be positive?” Ramirez asked, in response to a question about the man’s outlook on life.
However, students in attendance looked at life from all angles through the poetry aspect of the event, helping them to be appreciative of their own lives and health.
Rowena Briones, sophomore communication studies major, shared a poem that she had written after spending time in a hospital over Winter Break the previous year.
“I was all over the place,” Briones said in relation to her health, “I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating. My body gave up.”
She admits that it might have had something to do with her stress level in accordance to personal and school problems at the time.
In her poem, she captures a new sense of awareness and appreciation for the world around her.
“I am born again,” she said at the start of the untitled poem. “For now, I’ve got to live for today.”
Briones also emphasized the help that music therapy provided for her while she was sick. It helped her realize “how much music (was a part of her) life.”
The entire experience changed her perspective on school, friends, family and life in general. “I’m never going to take my health for granted,” she said.
Elizabeth Lagerstrom, sophomore music education major, also shared an untitled poem that focused on her life at a time when she was working two jobs and didn’t have much time to herself.
“Always going, never stopping,” she said, reflecting the message of the night, and the fight against AIDS, through the poem.
She later admitted that she was never exposed to AIDS firsthand, but she feels “our generation has the power to change things.”
Overall, students in attendance left the program with knowledge, as well as a new sense of awareness about the battle against the AIDS virus.
Justin Lynch, sophomore accounting major, said it was an opportunity to “learn more about an interesting subject.”
Stella Mimidas, freshman English major, reflected Lynch’s sentiments.
“It’s an event like this that really puts your whole life in perspective,” she said. “I’m thankful that (I) and everyone I love are healthy.”