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HIV/AIDS Awareness Week runs May 17-21

Keynote speaker to talk about growing up HIV positive

Ohio University Graduate student Kristina Rose is no stranger to HIV/AIDS.

Born in 1983, Rose entered the world at the onset of the epidemic and recalls her parents' reactions when a family friend contracted the disease.

"They were afraid to let their friend hold (me) because… nothing was known back then," she said.

Today, as a coordinator for the university's HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, Rose is asking students to arm themselves with education as they ponder, 'What if it was me?'

Coordinated by the Health Promotion Department, a division of Student Affairs, the annual series aims to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS within the university community, while promoting compassion, education and support. Supported by POWER, OHIO's peer health education group, HIV/AIDS Awareness events run May 17-21.

Though the majority of HIV/AIDS infections occur in middle-aged men, the college-age crowd is not exempt.

At the close of 2008, 589 15 to 24-year olds in Ohio were living with a diagnosis of HIV infection, representing 4 percent of all HIV diagnosis in the state, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Health HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program.

Although only one Ohio University student was diagnosed with an HIV infection during fall and winter quarters according to reports from the university's Student Health Center, Rose said the issue is not numbers. It's about perceptions among current students – the first generation to grow up in the presence of HIV. 

"There is ambivalence among young people today towards the virus – the mentality of 'It can't or won't happen to me.' We have heard the message over and over, and we've almost become desensitized to it," she said.

"That's why POWER sponsors the event every year – to remind people that the virus is still alive and well," continued Rose. "It's real and yes, you can contract it… One bad decision can lead to a lifetime of consequences."

This week's programming will be keynoted by HIV/AIDS youth activist Hydeia Broadbent who became known as one of the country's first teenage AIDS activists. She contracted HIV at birth from her drug-addicted biological mother and has battled the disease ever since with the help of her adopted parents, Patricia and Loren Broadbent. Broadbent will share her story of awareness, compassion and support at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Baker University Center Theatre.

This year's HIV/AIDS Awareness Week programming also includes the following events:

The NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt Display

Baker University Center, May 18-20

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic. Nearly 100,000 names on 3 by 6 foot memorial panels, most commemorating the life of someone who died because of the AIDS-related causes, have been sewn together by friends, loved ones, and family members. As of 2010, the panel was 1,293,300 square feet and growing.

During HIV/AIDS Week 2010, Health Promotion in collaboration with the NAMES Project Foundation, gives Ohio University students, staff and the surrounding community the opportunity to view a portion of the quilt in hopes that they will be inspired by the tributes paid in honor of those who lost their battle with the disease.

HIV/AIDS Testing

Baker University Center second floor, May 18, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. 

During this period, confidential HIV testing will be administered by Bobbi Bratchett from the Portsmouth City Health Department. This test will be the HIV OraQuik test and pre- and post-counseling will be available for all participants.

HIV/AIDS informational POWER Hour

Cunningham Leadership Center, May 18, 7 p.m. 

During this one-hour session, an Ohio University POWER (Promoting Ohio University Wellness Education and Responsibility) member makes an informational presentation on HIV/AIDS and related topics. This session is the ideal setup to the feature address, which will be delivered the following day by the Week's main speaker.