Silver City, NM- World Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome day, more commonly known as World AIDS Day, was observed by The Center for Gender Equity on Thursday, December 1st. Students had the opportunity to be tested and educated on how one can prevent receiving the virus. Freshman Don Jaramillo organized a panel of people who have been associated with AIDS in their lifetime. AsiaMarie Garcia, Hugh Epping, Buddy Akins, and Jennifer White each gave a better understanding of what AIDS is. One of the panelists, Buddy Akins, was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The panel opened with AsiaMarie Garcia speaking about how growing up, her school never properly taught sexual education. Schools in New Mexico are less likely to invite people who have AIDS to educate young students.
Hugh Epping followed, speaking about how when the disease was first being discovered, social and medical stigmas began. Epping saw the affects of how each generation treated these sick people. He explained that during the 1980s, the infection was considered a death sentence. He compared the past and the present, and exposed the impact of how different AIDS is looked at today.
“The reality is that people have sex. The reality is that people shoot drugs. Lets’ deal with the reality,” stated Epping.
Buddy Akins gave a testimony of what it is like to live with HIV. “When I think about the ’80s, it reminds me of fear and panic. This is not a cakewalk, it can change your whole life and future plans. I wanted to find a way to use my own HIV-positive status for the better and to give back. For the last twenty years I’ve been involved with HIV prevention programs. Because of my journey and the stigma along that journey, I wanted to educate younger people. Self-esteem is central, love yourself, don’t let other people tear down your self-esteem. I encourage you to not stigmatize yourself, or each other. Acceptance is a lot better than judgement. We should work together and make life better in every way, not just in awareness for HIV.”
After the panel, students and the community had a second chance to be tested for HIV, along with snacks and a dance. This was the first event Don Jaramillo organized with The Center, and it was very successful. He was proud to raise awareness and educate fellow students not to be afraid to get tested. For any upcoming events for spring 2017 semester, anyone may contact The Center at (575) 538-6635, or email@example.com.
Additional reporting by Claudie Thompson.