April 26, 2006

Prof Pushes Awareness

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An estimated 42 million people currently live with AIDS in the world, and another 14 million are HIV positive. The problem continues to worsen: every six-and-a-half seconds, someone contracts Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

While the topic of AIDS prevention has received attention by way of sexual education and financial backing, the number of people infected by the virus continues to increase. A collection of students, professors and alumni gathered inside McGraw Hall yesterday to discuss the best policy that should be taken to fight a new battle against the AIDS epidemic in the 21st century. The lecture and discussion session was led by Prof. Alaka Basu, sociology, and Jennifer Tiffany, director for HIV/AIDS education project.

“People most frequently think of this problem as a global one,” Tiffany said. “What people need to start doing is start thinking of this on a local level. The epidemic is not slowing down, as it has seen a five percent increase since last year. It’s also known that New York State is one of the hardest states in the U.S. to be hit.”

Basu talked mostly on AIDS attention in foreign countries like that her native India, which has seen a massive increase in the amount of people suffering from AIDS and HIV. While the epidemic has constantly been spreading, she said that the world is fortunate the epidemic received attention early on in its development because it was contracted by the rich before it came to be known as an epidemic of the poor like it is today.

“It was almost a good thing that the AIDS epidemic affected the rich and well-known first,” Basu said. “I mention this because, since it affected the wealthy, it received a lot more attention than it would have if it had first been contracted by people in some third-world country. With that, a lot more money was available for research and to that extent, I believe that our problem would have been even worse if it had started with the poor.”

Basu also touched on issues regarding the migration of individuals infected by HIV and how there should be a responsibility by governments to step in and take a greater stand on health code regulations concerning sexual safety.

Tiffany described the problem surrounding the current fight against AIDS as a “revolving door,” where abstinence campaigns and public awareness suggestions to “know your partner,” have only led to minors becoming a greater target for sexual activity.

Other issues that were discussed included the involvement of religion into the frame of education. For years the Catholic Church has strayed away as much as possible from the issue, as it is known for shunning the use of condoms. There was also the talk about how a new effective way of using humor to provide awareness for a deadly and serious epidemic could be the solution, since people tend to avoid uncomfortable talk surrounding the ways of contracting the deadly virus.

The engaged audience found familiarity in the lecture.

“I studied public health in South Africa for a semester, and these issues came up when we studied both the rural and the urban areas,” said Karlyn Beer ’06. “A lot of what was said here corroborates what was going on. Throwing money at the problem isn’t going to reduce the AIDS rate.”

The talk was sponsored by the Americans For Informed Democracy. According to president Elias Saba ’08, the AIDS stigma is something that the Cornell community needs to discuss and focus on since it is expected to be one of our generation’s greatest challenges.

“AIDS is a really important issue, and we feel like it really isn’t addressed enough on campus,” Saba said. “There are a lot of events to raise money and provide practical help, but there isn’t a lot of information or educational events. We thought it would good to have [Basu and Tiffany] come in and talk about possible prevention and things of that sort.”

Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Assistant Sports Editor