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Students Discuss HIV and AIDS in Conjunction with World AIDS Day

Published on December 09, 2015

Students Discuss HIV and AIDS in Conjunction with World AIDS Day

In response to World AIDS Day, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a panel discussion on Dec. 2 in the Student Center Theatre to increase awareness, dispel myths and get rid of the stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS. The panel was titled “Transforming How We See HIV, AIDS and other STIs.” and was part of Eastern’s “University Hour” series. The panel featured Social Work Professor Yvonne Patterson, Psychology Professor Carlos Escoto and Emma Costas, a student ambassador in the Women’s Center.

The panel shared that the medical community has made tremendous strides in battling the virus since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. There are now treatment options that make the lifespan after diagnosis indefinite, and also make living with HIV much more bearable. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. Not only do these medications have many negative side effects, they are also very expensive. For those who do not have healthcare insurance, it is nearly impossible to afford treatment. Patients who can afford treatment must be committed to a lifetime of submitting themselves to a strict regimen of drugs. “The medications do work effectively but require adherence and diligence from patients,” said Escoto. “Often you take the medications in different doses at different times throughout the day, and it is extraordinarily difficult to stay on top of.”

More than a million people in the United States are currently living with HIV, yet it is an issue that is commonly swept under the rug. Most likely this is because of the stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS that trivialize the plight of those infected with the virus. AIDS and HIV are transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids, and sexual intercourse is one of the most common ways that it is spread. As a result, public sentiment is that contracting AIDS or HIV is a result of promiscuity or sexual deviance. “Stigmatization results in the vast majority thinking they’re safe or not at risk because they aren’t promiscuous,” Escoto said. “Unless we deal with stigmatization, we won’t be able to alleviate or curb the HIV and AIDs epidemic.

“We skirt away from the issue because it’s difficult to talk about, but this only promotes misinformation and misunderstanding. We need to recognize that just because there is treatment available, that does not mean that HIV and AIDS aren’t still a problem.”

Written by Ryan King