World Aids day: raising awareness on a destructive disease

Tuesday, 1st December is World AIDS day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the disease. Currently over 85,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, with a quarter of them going undiagnosed.

In order to raise awareness and possibly funds for the charity, the Students’ Union is holding a fashion show, as well as other informational events throughout the week for its own Sexual Health Awareness week.

Simon Obendorf PHD, Lecturer of International Relations at the University of Lincoln spoke to The Linc about his experiences with the AIDS pandemic: “As a gay man, I was witness to the overwhelming impact of HIV and AIDS.”

“But also to the superb activism, research and campaigning that took place around safer sex, medication and treatments and human rights for those communities affected by HIV and AIDS,” he said.

Obendorf spoke of the burden that the AIDS virus can be, not just on individuals or communities, but entire nations.  “Getting involved in AIDS prevention efforts and continuing to talk about AIDS is part of who I am as an activist, as a scholar and as a citizen,” he added.

He says he is worried about young people and their knowledge of AIDS/HIV.

“One of the things I worry about is the sense of complacency about HIV among young people in Britain today. There is a suggestion that HIV is no longer an issue and can be easily controlled with medications. Or that HIV is a disease of gay men in big cities.“

“There is little sense that HIV is a long term chronic condition and that medications come with often severe side effects. There is even less of an appreciation that heterosexual (straight) sex is now the largest transmission category for new HIV diagnoses.”

Obendorf also suggested that young people need to be more accountable when it comes to STIs, “There is a need for much greater levels of responsibility among sexually active young people, getting a regular sexual health screen and practising safer sex is a start,” he said.

“Ultimately people have to take responsibility for protecting themselves, the people they love and the people with whom they choose to be sexually intimate. It’s a matter of self-esteem and personal responsibility.”

For World Aids Day, Lincolnshire NHS and Positive Health (Lincolnshire) gave University of Lincoln students the chance to design a poster. The winning poster was designed by graphic design student Martin Stewart, who made the Said/Aids posters that are placed around the campus.

“Aids is an illness that people often put to the back of their minds, they aren’t always aware of it.” He said he wanted his design to be clear and simple, so that the message could be easily understood,” Stewart said. “The simple message that I wanted to convey is that this information is available to anyone and that it is important that people do become aware of the issues surrounding the illness.”

Ben James of Positive Health (Lincolnshire) said “We really wanted to raise awareness of World AIDS Day and we thought an effective poster was a great way of doing that.

“The university were more than happy to support us and produced some brilliant posters to choose from,” he said, “the winning poster was a great choice and will no doubt help raise awareness.”

Sara Brine, Programme Manager for Sexual Health at NHS Lincolnshire says that events like World Aids day are an essential tool for raising awareness about diseases. “World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away.”

“There are still many things to be done, giving people a greater understanding of AIDS and HIV will not only help to reduce prejudice but reduce the risk of infection,” she added.

Note: On Friday, in recognition of World AIDS day, The Linc‘s Mark Bowery will be investigating the debate over gay men’s right to donate blood.

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