Groups bring AIDS awareness to NMU

Marcellino Signorelli

In observance of World AIDS Day, Saturday, Dec. 1, groups across campus will be holding events to bring recognition and awareness of the HIV virus and AIDS pandemic.

Four events will be held on campus, including the World AIDS Day benefit dance, display of the AIDS memorial quilt panels, HIV/AIDS Quiz Bowl and free HIV testing.

The World AIDS benefit dance will be from 7:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1 in the Superior and Ontario Room of the University Center and is organized by OUTlook. Last year alone, $500 in donations were received from local Marquette businesses along with $120 raised for the cause, said Joshua Garnett, co-president of OUTlook and public relations senior. Some of the raffle prizes were gift certificates for local bakeries and restaurants.

“The raffle money, whatever anyone donates, is going to be used for the Marquette County Health Department Continuum of Care Program,” Garnett said. “The Continuum of Care Program provides financial and medical services and support to individuals in Marquette County who have HIV. They provide transportation, referrals and financial assistance if there are emergencies, basically a support network.”

The Health Promotion Office and Health Department will provide information in the form of flyers and pamphlets about HIV testing, safe-sex practices, the Continuum of Care Program and condoms will also be available, according to Garnett.

“The dance is supposed to be a fun way to get some funds to [the Continuum of Care Program],” Garnett said.

The AIDS quilt panels will be on view from Monday, Dec. 3 to Friday, Dec. 7 in the atrium of Hedgcock.

“AIDS affects everyone, not just one specific ethnic group, so we thought it would be nice to show support, from LSU’s (Latino Student Union) part,” said LSU president and criminal justice junior Natalie Avila. “On your own, you can take a few moments of silence and look back at these quilts, made for people who were loved and cared for. People went out of their way to make these quilts for someone that they loved.”

Each panel describes a person, representing things the person liked, Avila said. The AIDS quilt was started in 1987 to memorialize the lives of those who contracted or died of AIDS.

The HIV/AIDS Quiz Bowl will start 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in Jamrich 103. According to health promotion specialist Lenny Shible, the audience will be split into teams and a buzzer system will be used, having the quiz bowl set up in “Jeopardy” style game-play. Some of the items discussed will be on the history, symptoms and testing for HIV/AIDS. The Black Student Union (BSU) partnered with the Health Promotion office to create an interactive program.

“The intention is to…have people enjoy the competitive nature of the quiz bowl that will also allow them to walk away knowing more than they knew before they came,” Shible said. “It’s a very ‘non-in-your-face’ way of providing information without lecturing.”

Free HIV testing will take place from 9 a.m. to noon and resume 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6 in Learning Resources Center (LRC) Room 111i. According to the BSU co-president and public relations junior Taylor Johnson, the testing will be administered by a representative from the Marquette County Health Department.

“Testing will be [via] oral exam – OraSure is the proper name for it,” Johnson said. “It’s free to everyone and because of the nature of the test, they’re not obligated to show any ID or identification.”

The HIV testing will be confidential and test results will take a maximum of two weeks, but may take less, according to Johnson. Results are typically distributed over the phone rather than via mail, to preserve confidentiality but it will be discussed with each individual person how to best contact them with the results.

“AIDS awareness is a big deal for the Black Student Union because African American women especially have the highest diagnosis for HIV, but HIV doesn’t discriminate based on race or skin color – if you’re human you can get that disease,” Johnson said. “It’s best that [the exam] is oral because there’s no blood, no pricks, no pain. You just go and get a swab of your mouth, for something so important.”

Those interested in testing will have to fill out initial paperwork, assessing their risk for HIV infection, and once they receive a cheek swab, will discuss how to reduce their chance of infection, according to Marquette County Health Department HIV/AIDS specialist Laura Fredrickson.

“A person does not have to give their name, and their test will be anonymous,” Fredrickson said. “I’m going to talk to each individual about how to receive their results. It is random, but some will be called over the phone while others will have to come in to get the results.”

Fredrickson said the results typically take a week and if someone chooses not to use a name, the test will be tracked by number and they will have to come in to receive their results.

For questions about HIV/AIDS, contact Fredrickson by calling (906) 475-7651 or email [email protected].