Representatives from AIDS Project New Haven offered free HIV screening November 28 to Gateway Community College (GCC) students on the Fairway. The event was in honor of World AIDS Day, which was December 1. Gateway was awash in the color red as students, faculty and staff wore the color to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.
World AIDS Day had a social media component to it as well. GCC students were photographed holding signs with messages about HIV/AIDS prevention. The photos were uploaded to the FacingAIDS.gov website. Those interested in seeing photo messages about World AIDS Day at GCC and other locations around the country can download the FacingAIDS.gov app. Members of the GCC community were encouraged to tweet their feelings about World AIDS Day using #NoNonsense.
The event was sponsored by Student Development and Services, Student Community Outreach Programs and AIDS Project New Haven.
Samantha M. Heltke, educational assistant for Campus Programming in the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Programs, said she hoped the day would remind students and the GCC community that HIV has not gone away.
“There are 10,537 people in the state living with HIV,” she said, adding that many people are living with HIV and do not know they have it.
Students handed out ribbons and bookmarks with some sobering figures: Teens and young adults under the age of 30 account for nearly 40 percent of new infections and there are approximately 50,000 new HIV infections per year.
Bob Sideleau, a GCC alumni and an Early Intervention Specialist with AIDS Project New Haven, tested students in a quiet corner just off the Fairway.
“I think it’s extremely important to provide testing in this relatively open setting, to demystify it, to remove some of the stigma,” he said. Results of the swab test were available in 20 minutes. If people tested positive, Sideleau offered information on health care and services available in Greater New Haven.
GCC student Imari Attaway, said, “I think it is important to be given the opportunity to take the test right here at school and to not be afraid to find out what the results are.”
Many students gathered around the “Get infected” table which urged them to get “infected” with information about prevention. Others read vignettes that were written by people around the country who have experienced HIV/AIDS in some way in an open mic as students, faculty and staff paused to listen. Brittany Perry, the Student Government treasurer who was volunteering at the event, said it was clear the event encouraged people to get involved and to consider getting tested for HIV.
Heltke said she and Sideleau were both students at GCC last year when they volunteered at the event and they wanted to be sure the World AIDS Day program continued here “at Gateway, where we are continuously learning inside and outside the classroom.”