Campus event addresses stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS

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by Ronald Penh, Staff Writer

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San Diego State recognized World Aids Day with a table event on Dec. 3 and by hosting HIV/AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent on Dec. 4 in hopes of addressing the stigma against the disease.

The contraction of HIV/AIDS was peaked during the mid 1990s but is something that is still prevalent in America today. The World Health Organization specifically chose the slogan for this year to be “Know Your Status,” urging individuals to get their HIV status checked through testing.

Guest speaker Hydeia Broadbent shared her life story as somebody who was born with HIV, addressing the significance of prevention through protective measures and her experience as an HIV/AIDs activist reducing the stigma around the disease.

Growing up, she said she did not have an average childhood as she was constantly in and out of the hospital due to her weakened immune system. She also experienced subtle forms of discrimination due to her HIV status.

She said her kindergarten teacher would spray bleach around her when she sneezed in class in fear that the disease could potentially spread. But, as with most stigmas, Broadbent said the discriminatory behavior that she experiences stemmed from a lack of understanding of her condition.

“It’s more dangerous for me to be in this room with you guys than it is for you to be in this room with me because a common cold for you can maybe turn into pneumonia,” Broadbent said. “Say I shake hands with somebody, maybe they didn’t wash their hands, maybe there’s a type of bacteria … that type of bacteria can grow to some type of fungus if I’m not careful and I don’t wash my hands.”

Her activism originally focused more on promoting the acceptance of those in the HIV/AIDS community. But, as tolerance increased over time, her emphasis shifted over to the significance of practicing safe sex.

Broadbent described sexual health as something akin to a public health concern rather than a harmless preference.

“I get it, I understand it, but if you’re not getting tested and you’re not taking the medication to make sure that somebody else is not contracting disease, you’re doing a disservice to mankind,” Broadbent said.

She also drew attention to the expectation that some have for HIV status individuals to disclose their status immediately to others. Putting into perspective the violence and discrimination that still exists, Broadbent said this demand does not address the issue of safety.

“What about my safety? How do I know that this person is going to react in a way that is not endangering to me,” Broadbent asked. “You read stories about someone who has disclosed their status and been attacked.”

Kinesiology senior Elyse Castaneda worked for table event on Dec. 3 and said her main concern is promoting good health on campus.

“We’re having this event because it’s World AIDS Day and we always are promoting safe sex and just promotional health in general,” Castaneda said.

She also added how people often mistake HIV/AIDS as being something that only affects the gay community when, in reality, anyone can contract the disease.

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