HIV testing UNICEF ETHIOPIA/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A rapid HIV test is performed at the Abay Health Center in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Stony Brook University helped students be aware of World AIDS Day and provided free HIV testing on campus. UNICEF ETHIOPIA/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dec. 1 — It’s the first day of the final month of the year. Finals creep closer to college students. And people all around the world prepare for the the holiday season. But that’s not all December should be know for.

Dec. 1 is also World AIDS Day, a day to support and come together in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world, and Stony Brook helped students on campus became a part of it during an on-campus World AIDS Day observance.

The events started around noon and lasted throughout the day. The university offered free confidential HIV testing to students at the SAC.

“We have a goal to screen 100 students with tests,” program coordinator Kathleen Valerio said. “Midway through our day we have already had 50 screens, and we haven’t had the influx of students we expect for the night events. You can say that exceeding our goal is closer that you think.”

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Students could also get free flu shots, visit the Health Fair and watch AIDS-related film screenings including “Blood Brother,” “United in Anger” and the musical “Rent.” “United in Anger” producer Jim Hubbard held a post-screening talk to discuss the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power or ACT UP, which is an advocacy group that fights for research and legislation to help people with AIDS.

Valerio had three organizations helping her throughout the day: the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, the Student Health Advisory Committee and the university’s LGBTQ* services.

“Us at SHAC have done a bunch of smaller events for HIV testing and other diseases,” SHAC treasurer Matya Badruddin said. “We have done events for depression, mental illness and STD/HIV awareness, but never something on this big of a scale. A whole day event is not only new to me but new to all of us.”

For LIAAC, this partnership with Stony Brook is not new. The relationship between the two organizations has been building for years now.

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“LIAAC has been working with Kathleen for eight years now,” LIAAC social media editor Melissa Colleary said. 

Outside of the three main sponsors, other committees came out to help increase HIV/AIDS awareness among college students. Planned Parenthood held an outreach session to 40 students and administered 20 HIV/AIDS tests.

“I think it’s easier to have students more than adults talk about HIV with them,” Badruddin said. “As difficult and uncomfortable it is talking about HIV, many students find it easier to talk about it with people their age. People do that with many subjects of conversation, but from my personal experience, I’ve seen students open up about this issue to people their age.”

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