Campus goes red to raise AIDS awareness

From lectures to talent shows, Prism painted the campus red last week to support the annual AIDS Awareness Week.

“We wanted the students to notice all the red around campus,” Elaine Smolen, president of Prism, said. “So even if they didn’t know about any of the events planned, at least the red piqued their interest.”

Those eating in Eickhoff Hall the night of Nov. 5 saw the group’s promotion firsthand with a red-themed dinner.

Prism co-sponsored the week along with 22 other student organizations. The week was packed with events promoting AIDS awareness, including a movie screening of “Philadelphia” and a lecture titled “Living and Loving in a World with AIDS,” with guest speaker Elaine Pasqua.

“Pasqua was good to learn about statistics and real stories,” Hannah Knight, public health chair of Prism, said. “(And) to find out how we can protect ourselves,” she added.

One of the highlights of the week was the AIDS Benefit Talent Showcase. According to Knight, the event raised more than $250 for the Hyacinth Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the HIV/AIDS community.

Knight started planning for the week months ago.

“Starting early helped us gather a large number of co-sponsors and made it less stressful during the semester,” she said.

The group started publicizing early and often with tabling in Brower Student Center, sidewalk chalk messages, banners and red ribbons tied around trees and poles.

“This year, we definitely want to get the campus more involved,” Smolen said. “Students need to realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, black, white or Latina. Everyone has the responsibility of protecting themselves from AIDS.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of AIDS diagnoses in the United States continued to significantly increase within the last decade, especially in ages 18-24. Approximately 56,300 people are infected each year.

Most importantly, members of Prism hope to fight the stigma associated with AIDS.

“The social death and exclusion of people who are living with HIV or AIDS is oftentimes just as excruciating as the symptoms of the disease itself, if not more so,” Knight said.

She also emphasized the importance of getting tested for AIDS.

Knight said, “You are not invincible. Go out, get tested, be safe.”

Kristen Lord can be reached at lord2@tcnj.edu.