AIDS Education Marches to Campus
Students also marched on campus for World AIDS Day 2004. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Bruin.)

AIDS Education Marches to Campus

The events today will focus on the HIV/AIDS epidemic within sub-Saharan Africa.

This article first appeared in the Daily Bruin.

Lindsay Bajo, Daily Bruin staff

Students across campus today will gather together in support of World AIDS Day, participating in a march, a rally and other events intended to educate students on HIV/AIDS.

Last year, World AIDS Day focused on HIV/AIDS within the UCLA community and greater Los Angeles area and marked the launch of the "I Know and Knowledge is Power" campaign. The events today will focus on the HIV/AIDS epidemic within sub-Saharan Africa.

"We want to educate the UCLA community that this is something that is devastating the world, but also bring it back to Los Angeles," said Adam Stern, a fourth-year World Arts and Cultures student.

Stern, who is also a UCLA AIDS Institute ambassador, hopes the event will educate students on the prevalence of the disease, as well as distinguish the differences between the epidemic within various African countries.

"The media likes to paint a picture of AIDS in Africa as if it were one big country. But it's not just AIDS in Africa; it's AIDS in Tanzania, in South Africa, in Ghana," he said. "They talk about Africa like it's California, when it's actually a huge continent."

Starting at 11:30 a.m., the march will take place at three different locations – DeNeve Plaza, Schoenberg Plaza, and the Court of Sciences. Students meeting at these locations will each be given an "I Know – Knowledge is Power" T-shirt and will proceed to Bruin Plaza, where all three locations will converge at noon.

The march will also incorporate aspects of African culture. Iddi Saaka, an alumnus of the WAC department and current lecturer within that department, leads Gonja Dreams, a musical group that incorporates drumming from various African communities. The ensemble will accompany the students marching in to Bruin Plaza, where Stern's band, The Grizzly Peak, will also perform.

The rally will include music, guest speakers from Students for International Change, and call-ins to legislators.

Jenny Wood, president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council and a UCLA AIDS Institute ambassador, has coordinated the calling of several legislators during the rally and throughout the day to gain support for microbicides, a product currently under development. Microbicides include a range of products such as topical creams and gels that prevent the spread of HIV through sexual transmission. In this way, the spread of HIV/AIDS can be prevented without the use of condoms.

"There are so many socioeconomic factors that play into spreading this disease, and condoms are stigmatized in various countries," Wood said.

At Bruin Plaza, students will also be placing their handprints on several banners.

"By putting a handprint on the banners, you make a promise to know – to know your status, to know how to help others," said Ragini Sarma, a third-year biology student and member of the Student Welfare Commission, the group directing the banner event. "By taking this pledge, or promising to get tested, that is how students can take initiative."

World AIDS Day is organized mainly by student organizations, most prominently the AIDS Institute Ambassadors, the Student Welfare Commission, the AIDS Awareness Committee, Dance Marathon and Students for International Change. Other groups that will participate in the events throughout the day are the UCLA AIDS Institute and Department of World Arts and Cultures.

Along with the march and rally, students will have the opportunity to attend several other events coordinated throughout campus. A Film and Television Archives display, focusing on the evolution of the AIDS epidemic, will be shown in Powell Library from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Workshops geared toward educating students on the epidemic, led by Students for International Change, will begin at 1 p.m. in the John Wooden Center. At 4 p.m., the Department of World Arts and Cultures will hold an HIV/AIDS symposium in the Gloria Kaufman Hall. Kerckhoff Art Gallery will have a quilt created by families of AIDS victims on display today and Friday.

The goal of all the student groups involved is to educate the UCLA community on both the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world and within the local areas.

"Students don't know how big this disease is in other parts of the world," Sarma said. "You hear about it, you see it on television, but the message isn't as clear."

Along with educating students on the epidemic, students involved want to bring the discussion of HIV/AIDS in a more positive direction, toward preventative measures and awareness.

"We need to change the conversation to how people are living with AIDS, instead of how people are dying," Stern said.

Published: Thursday, December 01, 2005