Students have been concerned with a serious and critically important international health issue recently. The week of March 28 to April 1 was dedicated to the annual AIDS Action Week. This event, which is held at many other schools during the spring semester, was created to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Three main student organizations worked together to create a series of interesting and informative events for the week. The Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC), Student Lecture Forum Asks (SLF Asks) and Students for Global Engagement (SGE) all collaborated to make the week as educational as possible. SGAC is a Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) group that tries to increase awareness among Colgate students of HIV/AIDS and is dedicated to fighting for a cure. SLF Asks, a weekly series that allows students to engage in discussion, invited senior Andrew Foglia to talk about his studying abroad experience in an HIV/AIDS clinic in South Africa. SGE worked closely with SGAC and SLF Asks to ensure that the events ran smoothly.
Sophomore Breanna Caruso played an integral role in the planning of the week. Caruso is the leader of SGAC and the co-leader of SGE.
“The goal this year was to present the campus with a lot of facts to garner interest in our cause. You would be surprised to find that many of our own Colgate students are misinformed about HIV/AIDS and its transmission or treatment or testing,” Caurso said.
The whole week was packed with events dedicated to different aspects of the HIV/AIDS campaign. On March 28, informational tables were set up in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) where students could learn more about HIV/AIDS. On March 29 and 30, the Solidarity Art Project provided students with the opportunity to trace their hands and sign their names on banners to show their support for those afflicted with the disease and for finding a cure.
Foglia’s talk on March 31 describing his study abroad revealed the alarming truth that he discovered about HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In the Imizamo Yethu Township, a suburb of Cape Town, Foglia worked as a volunteer intern at a medical community clinic for treating HIV and tuberculosis. After learning that the clinic only had six nurses, one physician and one pharmacist to treat over 140 people a day, Foglia quickly became a part of the medical staff.
“When I first walked into the clinic, I was struck by the crowds and despair. For the first time in my life I saw countless people truly debilitated by their sickness and in desperate need. That was an emotional sight and served as a constant reminder of the extent of the help that was needed,” Foglia said.
As an intern, Foglia’s responsibilities included triage and stocking the pharmacy. While working in the triage room alongside a nurse from the clinic, he greeted patients, measured their weight and blood pressure, and administered pregnancy tests and urinalysis. He also was able to shadow nurses while they treated HIV positive patients.
“I was constantly inspired by the dedication of the staff and the resilience of the patients. Even when faced with positive HIV results, the patients remained composed and determined to get the treatment they needed and to improve their lives,” Fogia said.
Foglia was also deeply troubled by the disparity that he soon learned existed between sex education in South Africa and in the United States. Many of the patients he looked after barely knew what a condom was, let alone how to use one. With a severe lack of sex education, the patients were unaware of the possibilities of transmitting diseases.
“I found myself frustrated many times, not so much with the patients, but with the inability for these individuals to access any type of resources that can inform them about the realities of sex and disease,” Foglia said.
Following Foglia’s talk, the students in attendance led a discussion about international HIV/AIDS. The week culminated in Red Day when people were encouraged to wear red to show their support for HIV/ AIDS research. In an effort to further the cause, free condoms were distributed all week.
“Every student does not receive comprehensive sexual education [so] we decided that it would be important to run a comprehensive educational campaign,” Caruso said.
Caruso encourages students who want to get involved to join SGAC.