Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Salisbury University’s Omega Psi Phi and Delta Sigma Theta chapters teamed up to hold an HIV and AIDS awareness presentation for students on Thursday.
The fraternity and sorority sponsored the event in recognition of World AIDS Day coming up on Dec. 1. The chapters wanted to sponsor an event that brought people together on campus in a positive social environment to learn, according to SU senior Othniel Edmond.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV, which stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” is a viral infection that attacks a person’s immune system and stays in their body for life.
AIDS stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,” which is the most severe HIV infection phase. This is signaled when the infected person contracts opportunistic illnesses due to their weakened immune system. An opportunistic illness is one caused by pathogens that take advantage of a weakened immune system.
According to the CDC, there were 39,660 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. in 2016. Approximately 37 percent of those diagnosed with HIV were between the ages of 20 and 29. This makes college students the population most at risk due to their age and sexual activity, but also those who can make the biggest difference in lowering infection rates.
Dr. Deneen Long-White, a community health educator, Certified Health Education Specialist and faculty member at SU, was the designated speaker for the event.
Long-White explained that the program was named Project KISS, standing for “Keeping It Sexually Safe.” Project KISS has a sister program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which provides the same resources.
Long-White mentioned that working with students directly to help them stay safe is one of her passions.
“The whole goal is to get the word out about HIV prevention, AIDS prevention, STD prevention on the college campus,” Long-White said.
During the event, Long-White challenged students to answer questions about HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Some students even participated in interactive games to demonstrate safe sex behaviors.
Each participation or correct answer was rewarded with “goody bags” of tools to promote safe sex behaviors, such as male condoms, female condoms or dental dams.
Despite the severity of the disease the event was centered around, the atmosphere was positive and energized, and students were engaged and had some fun with each game.
In the end, some students were surprised with the facts they learned.
“I thought it was a really good event. She [Long-White] gave me a lot of good information, things I didn’t know,” SU student Sarah Prince said.
Prince, a junior, is majoring in community health and attended the event as a way to learn more about a topic she hopes to pursue a career in.
“This is something I want to do for my internship, is work with people that do have HIV and AIDS,” Prince said. “So I felt it was a good event for me to attend to learn new things that I can apply later on.”
Community health educators play an important role in primary prevention, but so do students. By giving students resources and information regarding safe sex practices, they can alter unsafe behaviors and ideally reduce the prevalence of the disease, leading to a healthier campus and community for everyone.
By MEGAN SOUDER
Featured photo: Dr. Deneen Long-White guides students in an interactive challenge to enforce safe sex behaviors (Megan Souder image).