Wednesday, September 30, 2020

World AIDS concert spreads awareness

In 1988, journalists James Bunn and Thomas Netter became the first public information officers of the World Health Organization’s Global Program on AIDS. According to NewsWorks.org, which is a local news website that covers Philadelphia, South Jersey and Delaware, they recommended Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day.

Plattsburgh State students were able to recognize this day Dec. 1 during their World AIDS Day event, which was held in the Angell College Center ballrooms. Donations and proceeds from the event went to the Alliance for Positive Health, which is a local organization dedicated to improving lives impacted by HIV or AIDS and other chronic illnesses.

In 2014, there were 36.9 million people living with HIV worldwide according to the joint United Nation program on HIV and AIDS. Since then, the number has been rising. PSUC students raised awareness about the cause throughout the concert.

“I think it’s to acknowledge that the fight for HIV is not over. We live in a very privileged society where people are living much longer,” PSUC Health Educator and Outreach Coordinator Rhema Lewis said.

The concert kicked off with two songs from PSUC’s a capella group Minor Adjustments, including a rendition of “I Will Survive.” Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority also came to support the cause. They performed a sorority salute and dance at the end of the show.

In between performances, students took the stage to say why they wanted to be a part of the event.

PSUC student Andy Milos, who hosted the event, shared a story about a man with HIV and how he went through the experience alone. Milos encouraged the audience to have the courage to talk to each other about these difficult topics.

Lewis said it’s important to reinforce to young people that the fight against HIV and AIDS isn’t over.

“We’re using art to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS and also to fundraise for the Alliance for Positive Health.”

Two tables were covered with community artwork, with starting prices from $5 to $125. Additionally, there was a stand set up with more pamphlets, awareness stickers and bracelets.

Formerly known as the AIDS Council, the Alliance for Positive Health started out focusing on HIV but has branched out to other chronic diseases such as their syringe exchange program.

“We wanted to make sure we were here to promote the new syringe exchange,” Alliance for Positive Health and Project Exchange Taylor Gibbons said.

Gibbons said the fact that the organization hands out free syringes to individuals is what makes their program unique. Students can now obtain clean needles to promote safe practices from the Alliance for Positive Health and Project Exchange. Injection drug use is responsible for approximately 10 percent of HIV cases annually according to AIDS.gov.

Gibbons also said the Narcan injection is offered as well. Also known as Naloxone Hydrochloride, Narcan can reverse the effects of an overdose of heroin or some types of painkillers, according to drugs.com.

“So, if someone takes a shot of heroin and overdoses, what the Narcan does is it takes the drug off of their brain receptors, and it makes them start breathing again,” Gibbons said. “It should be used in emergencies only.”

Additionally, Narcan and free opiod overdose responder training is offered to the public at the Alliance for Positive Health and Project Exchange. Training includes how to use a Narcan kit and how to recognize opioid overdose. The training is free to the public, and students must be at least 16 years old to participate.

PSUC Student Health & Counseling Center physician’s assistant Susan Sand thought it was a fantastic event.

“Any time you get student involvement, it makes for a much more successful and entertaining event,” she said. Sand said it brought more awareness about the Student Health Center.

HIV testing is available at the health center, and its staff is currently taking appointments until Dec. 11 for this semester.

Plattsburgh Regional Director for the Alliance for Positive Health Diana Aguglia praised the event, saying the environment was very positive and that there was a lot of enthusiasm among the crowd.

“I’m passionate about the cause, and it’s important for college students to be aware of the services that are out there,” she said.

The Alliance for Positive Health and Project Exchange is located on 202 Cornelia St.

Email Kavita Singh at kavita.singh@cardinalpointsonline.com

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