By Bonnie Jarrett

Campus Times Staff

On Wednesday night in the Gowen room, students gathered for a forum on HIV/AIDS, led by Christine and Zena, who chose not to use their last names to maintain privacy. They have been living with AIDS for about 20 years.

“I was speechless, it was just a lot to swallow – I had to get a grip,” Zena said when she explained that she contracted AIDS when she received a blood transfusion with contaminated blood.

Both women, however, seemed hopeful. “I’ve been through some things and I just really believe that I have a purpose here,” Zena said. That purpose, she believes, is to educate people on how to protect themselves from sexual transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.

Once they finished telling their own personal stories, the two women began to take questions from the audience. They fielded questions about different birth control methods and their effectiveness.

They returned to the point that while no birth control method other than abstinence is truly foolproof, it is important to take whatever measures possible to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Beyond prevention, they also discussed the importance of getting tested for HIV/AIDS.

Zena spoke about her fear that she had transmitted the virus to her children.

Christina talked about telling possible partners that she had AIDS and the pain of being turned down as a result.

They answered questions about the process of being tested.

The audience, mostly females, felt very comfortable with Christine and Zena. While at first they premised their questions with phrases like “this might be a stupid question,” Zena continuously reassured them that there are no stupid questions.

The audience was very appreciative of the women’s honesty and their knowledge.

“I really appreciated having two guest speakers who shared such intimate experiences,” junior Tran Hong said.

Intern at the Health Promotions Office Jennifer Boltz agreed. “I am so thrilled,” she said. “I am so happy with the turnout and with the guest speakers.”

Most importantly, everyone left with Christina’s message, “This is preventable. You don’t have to get HIV, you don’t have to become a statistic.”

Jarrett can be reached at bjarrett@campustimes.org.



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