There is no vaccine and no cure. There is only awareness.
The Facing AIDs Project has arrived on campus, campaigning for education among students, faculty and staff through the annual World AIDS Day.
Taking place Monday, Nov. 25 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the second floor of Hodges Library, World AIDS Day will include several events, including free, confidential HIV testing, Facing AIDS Project photo testimonial activities and an educational display offering red ribbons, the symbol of hope for HIV victims past and present.
The Center for Disease Control estimates more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in America.
One of five of those infected are unaware they carry the disease. In Tennessee alone, more than 25,000 cases have been detected since 1982.
"Many of our students, faculty, and staff have been personally touched by the HIV epidemic due to the loss of friends and family members, and this day both memorializes and educates," Joel Kramer, faculty advisor for Lambda Student Union and assistant manager of University Housing, said. "So this isn't something that happens 'somewhere else' to certain kinds of people."
Acquired through the exchange of bodily fluids, HIV attacks the immune system. Over time, HIV can progress and become AIDS, a point at which the body is severely compromised and requires immediate treatment.
Intended to educate and unite citizens against the stigma associated with the illness and commemorate victims, UT's Lambda Student Union, S.E.E. Center, College Democrats and UT Libraries are co-coordinating with the Knox County Health Department for the day's events.
Lambda and the S.E.E. Center will have a resource table on the second floor of Hodges Library, where they will distribute information and speak with attendees.
Representatives from the organization say Lambda is counting on the power of peer persuasion.
"Despite those numbers HIV and AIDS is still something taboo to talk about," Michael Porter, president of Lambda Student Union, said. "This causes a stigma around HIV and AIDS itself, as well as discrimination for those living with HIV. Lambda Student Union hopes to use this as an opportunity to educate students, faculty and staff about HIV and AIDS."
Knox County Health Department will be administering free, confidential HIV testing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hodges.
"We will use the Oraquick test, which is an oral swab that does not require blood or needles," Judy Roitman, LMSW with the Knox County Health Department, said. "Results are available within 20 minutes. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone between the ages of 15 and 64 get tested for HIV, regardless of risk factors."
Through their Facing AIDS Project testimonials, S.E.E. will afford students, faculty and staff the opportunity to write a message to help raise awareness, promote testing or commemorate those who have died.
These messages will be photographed and placed in the photo gallery to accompany the display.
"This is a disease that strikes our community close to home," Kramer said. "And recent comments by state officials such as Sen. Campfield show there is still a lack of education and a great deal of misinformation in our community about this ongoing epidemic."