Students join together for World AIDS Awareness Week
World AIDS Day is on Dec. 1 and the Students Activities Board (SAB) is taking significant steps to spread awareness about the disease to the Seton Hall community.
SAB will kick off World AIDS Awareness Week with the event, “Does HIV Look Like Me?” on Nov. 30 at 8:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge.
“Does HIV Look Like Me?” is a lecture series hosted by U.S. ambassador and AIDS awareness activist Todd Murray, who will discuss his personal experience with having HIV, along with two other speakers.
“Our students met Todd Murray just over one year ago at the National Association of Campus Activities conference in Lancaster, PA,” Assistant Dean of Students Kyle Warren said in an e-mail interview. “The students were particularly impressed with the program that was offered and really wanted to see it come to Seton Hall. It just so happened that through their diligence in keeping in touch with Todd, he agreed to come do the program himself on behalf of his company.”
Juniors Shemeeka Greaves and Kerry Bocchetto, co-chairs of the Current Issues and Awareness committee for SAB, have been planning the event. Greaves said she met Murray at the NACA conference when she decided she wanted to hold the event at Seton Hall.
“He had this huge poster that was beautiful,” Greaves said. “It was all these different types of people, everyday people that you see in your class room or that you talk to or shake their hand and all of them had HIV.”
Bocchetto said she and Greaves hope the event will help rid the stigma that comes with HIV.
“A lot of what the campaign talks about is how it personalizes HIV and how it could be someone that’s in your classes,” Bocchetto said. “So because this campaign is so personal we wanted to get as many clubs involved as we could.”
Greaves and Kerry Bocchetto said they have gathered 32 clubs and organizations to co-sponsor and attend their AIDS awareness event.
“I want to pack the Main Lounge,” Greaves said. “I want to fill up all the chairs and I want everyone to come out for it. Go big or go home.”
Warren said that Greaves and Bocchetto have been successful in planning the event.
“I do believe that this is the first time that SAB has gotten this many people together on one single event ,” Warren said. “The last number was somewhere around 15 to 20 organizations.”
Bocchetto and Greaves said they worked on getting diverse groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Allies, Women’s Resource Center, Greek Life and cultural organizations.
Graduate student and member of Mu Sigma Upsilon Olivia Rodriguez said she was excited to get her sorority involved in the event.
“When I first heard of this program (Does HIV Look Like Me?) from Brian Diaz of SAB, I immediately contacted him that my sorority would like to co-sponsor,” Rodriguez said. “HIV/AIDS is a very personal and important illness to me. I lost three members of my family because of this disease.”
Rodriguez said the event is important to her because many college students do not believe that they have a high risk of being infected with HIV.
According to an article on AIDSPORTAL.ORG, the results of a global youth survey by Standard Chartered and AIESEC International, the world’s largest student organization, said, “Although 84 percent of young people believe the HIV and AIDS epidemic remains one of the great challenges of our time, almost 50 percent have a dangerously low knowledge about the killer virus.”
The article said this may be the reason “almost half of the world’s new HIV infections occur among 15 to 24 year olds according to the latest UNAIDS statistics, largely as a result of unprotected sexual activity.”
Rodriguez expressed her concern in the importance of informing students more about the HIV disease.
“If students are not fully protected and educated about this disease, then it can happen to anyone,” she said. “HIV/AIDS does not have a ‘type’ that it affects; it affects anyone who is not knowledgeable about all aspects of this disease. This program that SAB has put together, should be an eye opener for the Seton Hall community, and students should take this program seriously and understand that we can help prevent this disease from spreading through awareness.”