The Red Party Quilt on display during the Red Party at the Ohio Union March 1.
For some fighting HIV or AIDS, the battle includes fighting the stigma that comes along with it.
During the annual Red Party, a Pay It Forward event aimed to inform students and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS held at the Ohio Union Friday, students shared their personal stories relating to the virus.
Lydia Nader, a third-year in human nutrition and dietetics, shared a recurring message she heard from some of the HIV-positive individuals she met in Cape Town while there on a service trip with Buck-I-Serv.
“Just because I’m HIV-positive doesn’t mean that I cannot be positive about life,” Nader said, qouting a South African she had met.
That statement made an impact on Keegan Scott, who attended the party.
“That kind of struck me. I think, once again going back to the stigma, we always think that because you’re HIV-positive, that means you’re not going to live a positive life, there’s nothing to look forward to,” said Scott, a first-year in Arabic. “But that’s not true. There are people, there are friends, there are family and there’s a lot to look forward to.”
AIDS is an acronym for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a disease that gradually weakens the immune system and destroys the body’s ability to fight infections. AIDS is caused by HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which can be spread through sexual contact, infected blood or contaminated needles.
The main portion of the event consisted of informational videos and personal testimonies from the two keynote speakers, Nader, and Ivory Agan, a third-year in public affairs. Nader and Agan were co-leaders on the Buck-I-Serv trip to Cape Town, South Africa, last December where they learned about the issues surrounding the disease. Summer Wang, the coordinator of Red Party, said Nader and Agan were chosen as the speakers because of their insights into the HIV/AIDS cause.
“They worked with organizations that worked on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS,” said Wang, a fourth-year in mathematics. “We (had) them as guest speakers to come to share their experiences and their perspectives (on) this issue.”
Agan spoke to attendees about her personal experiences that led her to get involved with the HIV/AIDS cause.
“I had a loved one that passed away my senior year of high school, so I have a deep emotional connection with the virus,” Agan said.
Nader, who is the president of Buck-I-Serv, spoke to attendees about what she experienced on her trip to South Africa and how they can help break the barrier on the stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS.
“The social issue that we dealt with was HIV/AIDS, so we got to see first-hand how South Africa is dealing with HIV and AIDS,” Nader said.
Statistics about the number of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world were also provided during the event. According to avert.org, an international HIV and AIDS charity, about 34 million people were living with HIV in 2010, and an estimated 2.7 million people were newly affected that same year.
Agan said the event is a call to action for OSU students.
“(The Red Party is) a call to help people kind of mobilize themselves and make sure they’re speaking out against the stigma of the virus, and making sure that people are living their lives in a safe way to make sure that they are not continuing to spread the virus as well,” Agan said.
Some students attended the event to educate themselves about the cause and support those that have been affected by the virus.
“I don’t know much about HIV/AIDS,” Scott said. “I know I have family members who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. I’m coming here to support them and learn more about the cause.”
About 60 students attended the semi-formal event in the Barbie Tootle Room of the Ohio Union on Friday. The room was adorned in red and black decorations and the Red Party quilt hung as the backdrop of the party. The quilt is made up of squares that students at past HIV/AIDS awareness events made.
Attendees were encouraged to wear red and black attire in accordance with the red ribbon that represents HIV/AIDS awareness, Wang said.