Approaching HIV/AIDS from a Multicultural Perspective
April 18, 2004 3:05 PM
San Francisco has a reputation for its leading role in education and prevention of HIV and AIDS. More than 20 years since the start of the AIDS epidemic, students at SF State continue to play a part in that legacy.
The theme for this year's Multicultural AIDS Awareness Day at SF State focused on invisible populations and shrinking resources. The event was held in Malcolm X Plaza on Wednesday.
"The effects of AIDS are felt worldwide and affect all cultures," said Rowena Basa, 24, one of the event's coordinators and biology major. "This is something we're all in together. We should all be aware."
Basa and several others at the event are members of the co-ed fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, a service-based group who played a major role in organizing the event.
Other sponsors included the AIDS Coordinating Committee (ACC), Educational Referral Organization for Sexuality (EROS), ACC PEERS, Associated Students Inc., Counseling and Psychological Services, the Department of Biology, the Department of Counseling and the Student Health Center.
Multicultural AIDS Awareness Day featured live on-stage acts of all genres. There was also music, food, art and free condoms. The event was free and open to the public, who also received information about the AIDS epidemic and where to receive free HIV testing on campus.
"Awareness is global, and that's why I support it," said hip-hop performer Estairy, 25, special guest to the SF State campus for the event. "If I didn't believe in it I wouldn't be here."
According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, there are currently 18,000 people living with AIDS in San Francisco.
Cases of reported HIV/AIDS are reportedly rising among gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users (IDU) and the transgender community. Meanwhile, the latter was only first recognized as an individual group on medical records in 1996. Still, accurate information about the rates of HIV/AIDS for the transgender community is many times deemed inconsistent by the DPH.
Students interviewed at the event did not seem interested in addressing HIV/AIDS from an individual or categorical perspective but rather chose to embrace the issue of HIV/AIDS as it affects us all.
"It is not just a San Francisco disease. It is worldwide," said Menny Torres, 19, a biology major.
Community AIDS awareness organizations lined the plaza's lawn. Some included Axis Community of Health, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Native American AIDS Project, the STOP AIDS Project and Project Inform.
Tables close by displayed student's art inspired by the Latexhibition. For the project students used condoms to enhance their art in clever and unusual ways. The Latexhibition brought a sense of frankness, humor and beauty to the event that might otherwise have been melancholy.
"As usual the creativity is very evident," said Rita Walsh-Wilson from the Office of Student Relations. Of the event in general she added, "This is a wonderful event, terrific for education."
Displays included one called, "Oscar's Jewels Awards," featuring blown up condoms with celebrities pasted to the front side of them. As the wind started blowing it almost seemed as like the featured rock and movie stars were sauntering down the red carpet provided, and into the make shift auditorium for an Oscar party featuring films such as, "Saving Ryan's Privates, featuring Mr. Bate," and, "The Firm, starring Harry Dick."
Other exhibits were called, "Under the Sea," an underwater wonderland where contraceptive devices swam along side the fish, and "Exploring Your Anus," where an ample-sized condom-clad rocket ship headed for the "moon."
There was even a "Cum Ball" machine with a Durex Gold condom dispenser slot and colorful, condom-wrapped gumballs inside.
Lulue Burton, 22, a psychology major, and Lawrence Jones, 24, a black studies major, look over the displayed art work and remembered their own from last year.
"Mine was a condom ATM were you could deposit old condoms and receive new ones back," Burton said.
Jones remembered his penis pinata. "It had condoms, lube, lickable lotion and other sexual products. When you would break it open all kinds of treats would fall out."
For a moment, the dark truth about HIV/AIDS subsided as the event did something its organizers might or might not have planned. By approaching HIV/AIDS from the bright side, the event gave people hope.
"I think the event makes people more comfortable talking bout sexual things in general," said Taylor Benavides, 19, a film major.
"People need to know where to get resources like free condoms and free testing," said Stephen Monteclaro, 21, a biology major. "AIDS doesn't choose who gets it, or not and we want to let everyone know. It's not, not cool anymore to use condoms," he said.
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