Speaker sheds light on living with AIDS

It was a small, intimate group that gathered Nov. 3 to hear Elaine Pasqua speak about living and loving with AIDS.

Pasqua’s talk was enthusiastic and personal. She started off with a story about her mother, Eileen Hawkins, and her battle with the disease. Pasqua spoke about the secrecy and feelings of ostracism often accompanying an AIDS diagnosis.

“When people don’t speak out about it, it gives you the impression that it’s not in your community,” Pasqua said.

Pasqua mentioned the most common reaction among people confronted with someone infected is the question of how the virus was contracted. But with more than 40,000 new cases a year in the United States alone, with the highest concentration in the country found in nearby Manhattan, simply hiding the issue doesn’t make it go away.

“We all have lapses. We’re human,” Pasqua said. “But we shouldn’t be judging people that have this disease. We should be treating these people with compassion.”

Pasqua’s impassioned talk certainly made an impression on the audience.

“I started out thinking that it was fruitless . but I think my attitudes have been altered dramatically . (because of) tonight, by Elaine’s presentation,” Julie Bergman, senior English/education major, said.

Part of Pasqua’s talk was interactive. One activity showed how it takes only one sexual partner to transfer the disease. Each audience member had a medicine cup filled with a clear liquid; all but one had water in the cup. The one exception was sodium hydroxide (the “HIV virus”), which would turn the water pink when mixed with phenolphthalein. What started as one cup with the virus turned into 10 at the end of the experiment.

“It only takes one time to get infected,” Pasqua said at the end of the activity.

Hannah Knight, sophomore special education/psychology major, was in charge of bringing Pasqua to the College. “She’s come here before,” Knight said. “I’ve heard lots and lots of good stories about her.”

Knight decided to bring Pasqua to the College earlier than National AIDS Day, which is in December, with the mindset that every day should be seen as National AIDS Day. “There are going to be some events in December,” Knight said. “(But) we wanted to spread it out so more people could attend.”