Education key at UI on World AIDS Day

With a demonstration at the intersection of Green and Wright streets and displays on the Quad, the registered student organization Acting on AIDS sought to educate students in honor of World AIDS Day, Tuesday.

A poster that was carried by Wes Williams, member of the group and a sophomore at Parkland College, said, “In the 10 minutes it takes to walk to class, 39 people will die from AIDS. 47 more will be infected.” Williams stood with the poster at the intersection while other group members stood with their arms crossed over their chests in silence. The act and statistics on the poster were intended to show bystanders the seriousness of the disease.

The student group also presented cards on the Quad that told stories about children with AIDS or those who live in communities where many people have contracted this disease.

“We are just trying to raise awareness and get people to stop and notice that this is a big deal,” said Jessica Libby, president of Acting on AIDS and junior in FAA. “Our generation is going to be judged based on our response. We want to give them the information and the tools so they (students) know how to respond.”

Williams said he thinks the initial step of informing the public on the issue is most important.

“Really, we would love to do what we can to raise money and get people to take action,” Williams said. “The first step is really just letting people know not only that there is a problem, but that there is something they can do about it.”

Libby mentioned other ways students can help make a difference, such as becoming more informed about the pandemic and donating money to organizations that help people who have the disease.

“I know we’re college students, but the fact is that we have so much more than so many other people in the world today,” she said.

Dan Brencic, member of the group and senior in AHS, also emphasized the importance of getting educated about the HIV/AIDS topic.

“We always encourage students really to get informed,” he said. “I can’t stress that enough. Educate yourself about what is HIV/AIDS, how do people get it, how do you not get it, because there’s a lot of stigma about it.”

Williams calls the name of the organization is slightly deceptive because the group does not solely focus on raising awareness about AIDS.

Libby added that Acting on AIDS also focuses on other social justice issues indirectly linked to AIDS awareness. She said the group also raises money to alleviate poverty and hunger, and it recently sponsored a benefit night for victims of war-torn countries.

“We are just trying to stand up along with people around the world to recognize World AIDS Day and what’s going on: to stand in solidarity, to give people information and to bring this to the world’s attention,” Libby said. “So this is U of I doing our part.”