Although yesterday was World AIDS Day, most students remained unaware.
For the first time in recent years, no prominent events were organized on campus to raise awareness for a disease which affects 33.4 million people worldwide.
According to School of Nursing professor Christopher Coleman, there has been a decline in advocacy surrounding HIV/AIDS at Penn in recent years.
“Students used to be very organized on World AIDS Day,” said Coleman, who recalls speaking at a rally on College Green in 2006.
“They used to have events on campus, but in the last few years, I haven’t seen anything going on.”
Coleman said that the lack of programming on campus is worrisome since Philadelphia has one of the highest incident rates in the country with over 19,000 residents infected with the virus.
In previous years, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual groups on campus collaborated with other organizations to organize movie screenings and art installations in observance of World AIDS Day.
According to College senior Jason Goodman there are “a lot of challenges” in getting programs in place as students are often “stretched thin” between schoolwork and activities.
However, some students — like Penn Med student Luke Messac — remain passionate about AIDS activism.
“It really is one of the moral crises of our time,” he said. “We have a preventable and treatable illness that should not take any more lives, but it continues to take the lives of people — especially young people.”
In October, Messac — who was a field organizer for President Barack Obama’s campaign — heckled the president to remind him of his pledge to spend $50 billion over five years to fight AIDS overseas during his speech in Germantown, PA.
Messac said he became involved in AIDS activism because of his interest in global health. He has since met many people living with HIV and has lost friends who had the virus.
According to Coleman, “everyone is potentially at risk” of contracting AIDS.
“HIV does not know what color you are and what your sexual orientation is,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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